TOP 5 PASSING MATCHUPS WEEK 15
To view all of our Week 15 Matchup content, please see the links below:
Indianapolis vs Houston
The Colts try not to ask too much of 38-year-old Philip Rivers, preferring to control their games on the ground and with strategic play-action. Still, it’s worth noting that Rivers has generally produced whenever he’s been asked to. He averaged 39 attempts and 291 yards from Weeks 6-13, tossing 16 touchdowns over those 7 games. Unsurprisingly, top wideout TY Hilton has taken full advantage of the added volume and dynamism. After failing to reach 70 yards in any of his first 9 games, Hilton has posted 81, 110, and 86 in his last three, hitting the end zone 4 times in the process. Hilton, explosive rookie Michael Pittman Jr, and the tight ends all project as well as they possibly could in a generous, familiar matchup.
The Texans pass defense, saddled with one of football’s weakest depth charts, continues to simply run out the clock on 2020. Seven of their last 8 opponents have recorded 280+ yards through the air, a trend that should continue through the home stretch. This was a porous unit even with top cornerback Bradley Roby on the field; without him, it’s arguably the league’s worst. Vernon Hargreaves III is now an every-snap player at different spots in the secondary, and the light simply isn’t turning on for the former No. 11 pick. Fellow starters Lonnie Johnson and Keion Crossen are no better in coverage; Allen Robinson faced little resistance last week in turning his 13 targets into 123 yards. He did so from all over the formation, taking turns besting those shaky cornerbacks and safety Eric Murray, who remains a big liability in the slot. Robinson made for the seventh wideout to top 100 in this matchup - a list that includes Hilton, who recorded his first such total of the year just two weeks ago. Hilton should again find plenty of room downfield against this talent-starved unit, and Rivers should again find his slants and hot routes consistently open underneath. Simply put, any Houston opponent is set up for a big day through the air.
LA Rams vs NY Jets
The Rams pass game remains a mixed bag overall, dating back to the day it hit the brick wall of Bill Belichick’s Patriots two Super Bowls ago. Coach Sean McVay’s attack depends upon Jared Goff standing up to the blitz and delivering crisp throws, which has never been his strong suit. Goff continues to waffle from the pocket, and he comes fresh off another subpar outing against Belichick’s crew. Thankfully, his Week 15 matchup seems to come from a different galaxy, with no Belichick in sight. Just 2 weeks ago, Goff hit on 37 of 47 throws for 351 yards in rolling the Cardinals. Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp turned their 20 targets into 158 yards, winning at the seams with quickness and savvy. This isn’t the most consistent attack, but it’s more than capable of capitalizing against the Jets defense.
The Jets pass defense, ravaged all year by injury and ineffectiveness, remains one of fantasy’s weakest and most exploitable. Anyone who’s felt the need to throw against the 0-13 Jets has found success, with six of their last nine opponents cruising to 270+ yards. Russell Wilson did more with less last week, but 4 of his 27 attempts went for red-zone touchdowns in the romp. This remains a badly undermanned secondary, forced into a youth movement but simply lacking in young talent. Oddly enough for such a bad franchise, there are no premier prospects to point to, and the bodies forced into action have been atrocious in coverage. The downfield struggles of undrafted rookie Lamar Jackson have been well-documented, but fellow rookie Bryce Hall has been just about as bad, and Blessuan Austin has taken a step back from a promising 2019. As a result, this unit has been bloodied on all corners of the field. Dating back to Week 4, they’ve allowed 11 different receivers - a healthy mix of wideouts and tight ends - to record 80+ yards on the day. It’s hard to find a coverage plan here to slow Goff and his weapons for as long as they’re putting the ball in the air Sunday.
Baltimore vs Jacksonville
The Ravens pass game has been one of 2020’s biggest disappointments overall, producing just 7.1 yards per attempt (21st) and 182 a game (31st). But last Monday night may serve as a turning point back to their instinctive, explosive ways of 2019. Lamar Jackson’s heroic fourth-quarter return and immediate win (via the pass) was a great reminder of his considerable week-to-week upside. Jackson trusted in his weapons, namely Mark Andrews and Marquise Brown, to weave big-play magic when it was needed most, and it all came together perfectly down the stretch. It’s never wise to bet high on volume production from this crew, but they’re always a threat to erupt, particularly in a defensive matchup like this one.
The Jaguars deserve credit for their push to rebuild a stripped-down secondary. They appear to have drafted a keeper in cornerback C.J. Henderson, and Sidney Jones looks like a potential steal whenever he suits up. But injuries have cropped up throughout the year, stunting those plans and leaving another beatable coverage unit all over the field. Henderson and slot specialist D.J. Hayden remain shelved, forcing the ineffective Tre Herndon and a host of replacement-level bodies into heavy rotation. The safeties are more valuable in the box than in coverage, leaving those guys on islands too often for their talent levels. It doesn’t help, of course, that the pass rush has been unable to offer any real pressure, hurrying and sacking quarterbacks at bottom-five rates. That forces a secondary to hold its assignments even longer, which is terrible news for this pieced-together depth chart. Jackson should have little trouble finding openings on specific one-on-one matchups for as long as the Ravens feel the need to throw.
Green Bay vs Carolina
The Packers continue to sizzle through the air, with Aaron Rodgers staking a serious MVP claim. Patrick Mahomes II has been outstanding as always, but perhaps no quarterback has willed his team more to success than Rodgers. He’s posting his best yardage and touchdown rates in close to a decade, and he’s cleared 290 in six of his last seven games. (In the seventh, Rodgers threw just 29 times in a blowout win, with four scores along the way.) With a crystal-clear WR1 in Davante Adams (104 yards per game and 14 touchdowns) and a dynamic deep threat in Marques Valdes-Scantling, there’s enough firepower here to burn just about any NFL secondary. A date with the floundering Panthers at their season-low point is almost too good to be true.
The Panthers have indeed faced a brutal schedule of quarterbacks here in 2020. And to no one’s surprise, they’ve been shredded through the air at nearly every turn lately, giving up 280+ yards in six of their last seven games. It’s not just the elite passers finding success, though. Drew Lock posted 280 and 4 touchdowns last Sunday, just a week after Kirk Cousins put up 307 and 3 of his own. Lock’s two long touchdown throws were made far too easy, and he had little trouble working through his reads against this shaky crew. Donte Jackson, Rasul Douglas, and Tony Pride make for one of the weakest downfield coverage trios in football, and safety Tre Boston has been atrocious, so Valdes-Scantling is staring at a great opportunity. And there’s no one here who looks set to even annoy Adams in his quest for another masterpiece. This has been one of fantasy’s most fruitful matchups for the past two months, and absolutely nothing projects to change for Saturday.
Tennessee vs Detroit
The Titans appear to live and die on the legs of Derrick Henry, but this attack is definitely more complex than that. It requires an aggressive, opportunistic passer to take advantage of sell-out defenses, and Ryan Tannehill has been exactly that. Over his 24 starts as a Titan, Tannehill leads all qualifying quarterbacks in yards per attempt (8.6) and trails only Drew Brees in passer rating (111.2). It’s hard to pin down his volume from week to week, but he’s just two weeks removed from turning 45 attempts into 389 yards and 3 touchdowns. He’s on a roll and can maximize any opportunity he gets while A.J. Brown and Corey Davis are bullying their way through secondaries. Brown has averaged 99 yards over the past three games, while Davis has quietly recorded four weeks of 100 or more.
The Lions’ rebuilding pass defense showed encouraging promise to open the year, but has predictably fallen apart down the stretch. Over the past eight weeks, they’ve allowed opposing passers to hit on 72% of throws for 293 yards a game, with 16 touchdowns. They’ve indeed been without their top two cornerbacks, Desmond Trufant and rookie Jeff Okudah, for much of that span. But it’s also worth noting just how ineffective both have been here in 2020; they aren’t missing out on much. Unsurprisingly, their backups have been just as poor, and opposing wideouts have been consistently able to put up big fantasy lines. Last week it was Green Bay’s Davante Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling winning downfield, and they’ve given up season-best lines to the likes of Will Fuller V (171 yards), Keelan Cole (143), and D.J. Moore (127). It all points to a dream matchup for Tannehill and the Titans’ aggressive play-action game. The thin, beaten-up secondary will be hard-pressed to stay with the dynamic Brown and Davis on all levels of the field.