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Top 5 Passing Matchups
LA Rams vs Atlanta
The Rams didn’t get off to the start they wanted in the opener, and while there were many culprits, it started with Matthew Stafford and the air attack. Stafford was dinged-up throughout the preseason and looked choppy at best against the Bills, managing just 5.9 yards per throw and coughing up 3 interceptions. He was under duress all night and failed to create anything with anyone not named Cooper Kupp. The good news is that Stafford came out of the game unscathed, and there’s nowhere to go but up, particularly with a tastier matchup on tap. There’s no concern between him and Kupp, who turned his 15 targets into a 13-128-1 line, but others will need to step forward. New Rams’ receiver Allen Robinson, who saw just a single target before garbage time, should find far more room to get to know Stafford this Sunday. And there should be less focus spent on tight end Tyler Higbee, who was fed 11 low-impact targets once forced into catch-up mode. The major questions exist along the front line, which gave up seven sacks in Thursday’s loss.
The Falcons' defense at least looked scrappy in its Opening Day loss. But by the end of the day, Jameis Winston had completed 68% of his throws, including a handful of tough downfield plays and a pair of touchdowns. We’ll need to see weeks of improvement to expect better from this unit, which finished bottom-10 last year in most yardage and touchdown metrics. Cornerback A.J. Terrell is developing into one of the game’s elite cover men, but there are big question marks elsewhere, particularly at safety. Starters Richie Grant and Jaylinn Hawkins have been beaten routinely when pressed into action, and both struggled again Sunday in help coverage. And since Terrell doesn’t follow specific receivers into the slot, the team will have to lean heavily on first-year man Dee Alford who was in the CFL last season against Cooper Kupp. Alford and new addition Casey Hayward were worked over Sunday by Jarvis Landry, so it’s not an inspiring matchup. Week 1 did offer a gleam of hope up front: a year after finishing dead-last in sack rate, the Falcons brought Winston down on 4 of his 38 dropbacks. But overall, with most of the matchups seemingly in their favor, Matthew Stafford and the Rams look as likely to bounce back in Week 2 as anyone.
Indianapolis at Jacksonville
The Colts certainly didn’t light the world ablaze in their Opening Day tie with the Texans. New quarterback Matt Ryan was about as average as a passer could be, hitting on 64% of his throws at 7.0 yards apiece, with a touchdown and an interception. It was a rusty debut, but the going should get much easier against the always-overmatched Jaguars. If nothing else, Ryan showed he’s willing and able to push the ball to his proven playmakers. Clear No. 1 receiver Michael Pittman Jr won on all levels of the field, catching 9 of his 13 targets for 121 and Ryan’s only touchdown. Pittman is a matchup nightmare when schemed over the middle; if he and Ryan can lock down their deep-ball and jump-ball timing, the numbers will be outstanding. There are questions elsewhere on the depth chart, but even role players like Parris Campbell, Alec Pierce, and Kylen Granson should see chances to succeed Sunday. The wild card is third-year reserve Ashton Dulin, whose 46 yards were third only to Pittman and third-down back Nyheim Hines in the opener.
The Jaguars showed encouraging strides in their Week 1 loss, but most of those came from the offense. The pass defense still looks like an absolute mess, and one that should still be targeted in fantasy whenever possible. Carson Wentz and the Commanders hit little resistance in the opener, piling up 313 yards and 4 touchdowns. For the most part, the Jaguars are simply rolling over their 2021 personnel, a curious choice after finishing bottom-six in net yardage, adjusted yardage, and expected points via the pass. This group continues to find itself whiffing both in man coverage and between its downfield zones. The trio of Shaquill Griffin, Tyson Campbell, and free safety Andre Cisco struggled badly Sunday, allowing four touchdowns to three different Washington wideouts. It says a lot that the team still leans to any degree on the likes of Tre Herndon and Chris Claybrooks, two of the NFL’s most-toasted cover men of the past half-decade, for depth. Overall, everyone gets an upgrade in this juicy matchup. Even the Colts, who look fairly punchless beyond Michael Pittman Jr, project to one of the better lines of their season Sunday.
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