Join the Footballguys Daily Update
Start your morning with our roundup of the most important stories in football - with the fantasy insight you need to make league-winning decisions. Delivered straight to your inbox, 100% free.
Go here for this week's Rushing Matchups.
Top 5 Passing Matchups
N.Y. Jets vs Detroit
The Jets now know they’ll have anointed starter Mike White back under center Sunday, a massive relief for fans and football watchers alike. White is a limited passer, but he’s far and away the Jets’ best option, and he’s more than capable of producing – especially in matchups like this one. Over his five full starts, White has ridden high volume (44 attempts per game) to a gaudy 322-yard average. And this year, he’s armed with the dynamic Garrett Wilson, who’s settling in as the Rookie of the Year frontrunner. Wilson has excelled all over the field, and he’s only picking up steam, averaging 6 catches 92 yards over the last six weeks. White has also proven himself able to get Elijah Moore and Corey Davis involved in spurts, breathing life into the whole offense that Zach Wilson and Joe Flacco simply don’t offer.
The Lions are soaring right now, but only when Jared Goff and the offense are able to win shootouts. The defense, still plagued by injury and ineffectiveness on the back end, continues to struggle badly through the air. They’ve given up efficient games to the usual suspects, like Tua Tagovailoa and Kirk Cousins, all the way down the spectrum to the likes of Daniel Jones and Bailey Zappe. It’s rare to see a unit play so soft down the field (11.6 yards per completion, 31st in the league) yet still commit so many overly aggressive mistakes. Beyond Jeff Okudah, who keeps mixing strong games with shaky ones, there’s shockingly little talent in this secondary. Amani Oruwariye, Mike Hughes, and Jerry Jacobs are leaned on for full-time roles at cornerback; they’re picked on relentlessly and get little help from the safeties. Okudah continues to flash shutdown ability, but even on his best days, that’s not nearly enough to make up for this many holes. Last Sunday, it was Minnesota’s Justin Jefferson (9 catches, 174 yards) carving up the Lions’ soft zones, but he was far from the first. Over the past month, this group has allowed huge lines to WanDale Robinson (9-100), Darius Slayton (5-86), Stefon Diggs (8-77-1), Isaiah McKenzie (6-96-1), and Christian Kirk (6-104). It’s hard to envision them keeping the speedy, high-volume Jets off that list.
L.A. Chargers vs Tennessee
The Chargers are finally healthy on offense and finding their groove. Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Gerald Everett, and key parts of the front line are back in place, giving phenom passer Justin Herbert a fair shot. Herbert kept things afloat while his receivers sat but averaged just 6.4 yards per throw (33rd among 45 qualifiers) over those 11 games. In last week’s reunion, Herbert went a dazzling 39 of 51 for 367 yards, with a touchdown. As usual, Williams, Allen, and Austin Ekeler dominated the offense, drawing 55% of Herbert’s targets and 73% of his yardage. This has long been a streamlined offense, so as long as those guys are on the field, they’ll project to big volume. And it’s always fair to give them a touchdown boost: only the Chiefs and Vikings throw more in the red zone. A date with a secondary like Tennessee’s is a playoff gift from the fantasy gods.
The Titans’ wildly tough stretch of quarterback schedule continues. Over their last six games, they’ve faced off against four MVP awards, six Super Bowl appearances, and 150,000 career yards in Patrick Mahomes II, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, Joe Burrow, Jalen Hurts, and Trevor Lawrence. That’s not their fault, of course, but they haven’t exactly risen to the challenge. Those guys averaged 326 yards through the air, with 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions, against the shell-shocked Titans. This is a classic “pass funnel” defense: so dominant against the run (3.6 yards per carry, second in the league) that they force you to throw relentlessly (40 times a game, most by a mile). Almost always, the result is a big stat line, and now the high-volume Justin Herbert awaits. It’s hard to see how the Titans’ personnel can hope to keep up with the now-healthy Chargers. They’ve spent premium picks in recent years on cornerbacks Roger McCreary, Kristian Fulton, Elijah Molden, and Caleb Farley, only to boast one of the league’s worst coverage units here in 2022. Only McCreary is expected to even suit up Sunday, alongside shaky journeyman Terrance Mitchell, in a matchup that receivers have simply feasted on. Over the past four weeks, seven different wideouts have produced 10+ PPR points in this matchup, with five of them topping 20.
Indianapolis at Minnesota
The Colts' air attack has been mostly underwhelming here in 2022, relying on volume and the occasional big Michael Pittman catch for relevance. In other words: aside from Pittman, who’s a weekly must-play, this group is only viable when the matchup is just right. And there’s reason to believe Pittman (and perhaps others) will not only win most of their one-on-ones but dominate them. The Vikings have struggled badly against most of the wideouts they’ve faced, but especially big-framed alpha types like Pittman. He’ll move around the formation to avoid Patrick Peterson as much as he can, and he’s capable of winning on all levels of the field. If the Vikings choose to bracket him in, Matt Ryan should find success with his backs, tight ends, and slot men. Parris Campbell has been a steady PPR contributor with 18 catches, 200 yards, and a touchdown over the last four weeks, and he also matches up well with the undermanned Vikings.
The Vikings’ defensive woes continued to blare loudly in Sunday’s surprising loss. They’ve now allowed five straight opponents, and seven of their last eight, to clear 300 yards. When Josh Allen and Dak Prescott did it, it was concerning. But over the past three weeks, Mac Jones (28 of 39, 382 yards, 2 touchdowns), Mike White (31 of 57 for 369), and Jared Goff (25 of 37 for 317 and 3) have joined the fun and full-on broken the concern-o-meter. What’s worse is that it all seems to be (somehow) trending downward at the worst possible time for the Vikings. They generated no real pressure Sunday, and all their downfield issues were on full display. Patrick Peterson’s resurgence isn’t enough to make up for the other inconsistent cornerbacks, who have been scorched by big, fast split-end types. Splash plays have come left and right in this matchup: only the Titans have given up more 25+ yard completions). And if ball-hawking safety Harrison Smith has to sit again, things will look even more drastic. Not all Colts are fantasy-viable, of course, but their key pieces (Matt Ryan and Michael Pittman) get huge boosts either way.
Dallas at Jacksonville
The Cowboys have seen spotty efficiency from Dak Prescott since his Week 7 return from injury. That said, his shaky Week 14 performance easily could’ve been much better if not for a few blink-and-you-miss-it moments with his wideouts. (For example, he was a yard or two shy of a 68-yard touchdown to Michael Gallup on the opening drive.) We know he’s still fully capable of delivering strong volume to CeeDee Lamb (26% of Prescott’s targets) and tight end Dalton Schultz (21%), both of whom can make plays in the open field. Lamb is always a WR1 candidate, averaging 6 catches and 74 yards, and he’ll move around the formation to attack the outmanned Jaguars. No one knows quite what, if anything, to expect from new signee TY Hilton. But there’s a non-zero chance he quickly pushes Gallup for downfield targets.
The Jaguars’ young pass defense has made definite improvements here in 2022, and there are pieces in place to build around. Edge rusher Josh Allen, cornerback Tyson Campbell, and safety Andre Cisco all look like real cornerstones, which is more than could be said in Jacksonville for the last five years or so. Still, a series of fruitless drafts have left them with holes just about everywhere else. As dominant as Campbell has been, for example, he’s been paired with training camp-caliber castoffs like Tevaughn Campbell, Tre Herndon, and slot man Darious Williams in hefty roles. The results, between the shaky personnel and the soft-zone scheme, have been predictably poor. Over the past six weeks, only the Bears and Vikings have given up more yardage per throw and per game than these Jaguars. Of their cover men, Williams may actually be the weakest link; opponents have found lots of success inside lately. Detroit’s Amon-Ra St. Brown rang up 11 for 114 and 2 touchdowns two weeks ago, while Tennessee tight ends Austin Hooper (5 for 68) and Chigoziem Okonkwo (6 for 45 and a touchdown) feasted on inside coverage just last Sunday.
New England at Las Vegas
The Patriots don’t generally ask much of Mac Jones, preferring to win on the ground and through defensive splash plays. But even though Jones isn’t an earth-shattering quarterback, the team has to be happy with how efficient he’s been. He’s completed a strong 68% of his throws and comes just three weeks removed from the game of his life: 28 of 39, 382 yards, and 2 touchdowns against the Vikings on Thanksgiving. His supporting cast will be limited if Jakobi Meyers and DeVante Parker fail to clear concussion protocols, so that could limit Jones’ ceiling, but this attack has never been about weapons anyway. Jones is a system passer who will distribute the ball to his available bodies – likely Nelson Agholor, Hunter Henry, and Kendrick Bourne – and the soft matchup hints at one of Jones’ bigger days of the season. At worst, it’s fair to project a “floor-level” performance. Agholor drew 10 of Jones’ 35 targets last weekend, while Henry got loose for a pair of long catches en route to a 70-yard day.
The Raiders continue to trot out one of 2022’s weaker pass defenses, sitting 28th in yards per attempt (7.2) and 28th per game (268). There are definitely building blocks here, led by pass-rusher Maxx Crosby (who will be an All-Pro) and top cornerback Nate Hobbs (who would be one had he not missed six games). But there’s little around them; the team failed miserably to add defensive talent under Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock. Even Rock Ya-Sin, who’s developed into a solid if unspectacular cornerback across from Hobbs, looks iffy for Sunday with a knee injury. As a result, they lean heavily on undrafted names like Sam Webb and Tyler Hall for heavy snaps in the secondary, and they’ve lacked quality safety play for years. The team remains high on second-year man Trevor Moehrig, giving him virtually every snap, but he’s yet to make a dent against the pass. Overall, it’s easy to see even a shaky attack like that of the Patriots cashing in against this unit. At the very least, Mac Jones and his available weapons should zip past their weekly floors.
Bottom 5 Matchups
Pittsburgh at Carolina
The Steelers still aren’t sure who will be under center Sunday, but neither option projects well. Kenny Pickett will have to clear concussion protocol to suit up, and it seems unlikely the 5-8 Steelers rush him through a second brain injury. Most likely, it will be Mitchell Trubisky handing off and throwing safe passes under the defense. Trubisky aired it out a bit in Sunday’s loss, even hitting on a pair of deep balls to George Pickens. But his three interceptions were a reminder to Mike Tomlin and the world that the Steelers’ best bet would be a safe, sanitized gameplan. In Trubisky’s first five appearances, he managed just 6.2 yards per throw and a measly three touchdowns. Pickens, Diontae Johnson, and tight end Pat Freiermuth should lead the way – they’ve claimed 63% of Trubisky’s targets on the year. But their upsides have to be capped tightly as the Steelers run out the 2022 clock.
The Panthers continue to slog through their rebuild but can at least take solace in the stout young pass defense they’re assembling. Last week, Geno Smith became the first opposing passer since Week 8 to post even 230+ in this matchup, and he didn’t have an easy time doing it. Top cornerback Jaycee Horn leads the way; last year’s No. 8 pick looks more every week like a future All-Pro. The team misses Donte Jackson, who tore his Achilles’ last month, but Horn’s breakout is quite the consolation prize. He’s not a shadow type, but he’s been battle-tested in recent weeks and has held his own against Tee Higgins, Courtland Sutton, and others. Even DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, who produced well last week (10 catches, 131 yards, 2 touchdowns), had to work for everything they got. They caught barely half their targets, and both scores came on tough catches near the goal line. With an underrated safety duo of Jeremy Chinn and Xavier Woods, it’s a group that simply doesn’t leave many openings down the field. They’re not unbeatable, of course, but neither Pittsburgh quarterback looks capable of bucking that trend.
Atlanta at New Orleans
The Falcons will turn the offense over to Desmond Ridder, presumably for the rest of the season, as the team glimpses whether he’s a realistic 2023 starter. Marcus Mariota is on IR, which all but ensures a long leash for the rookie. Unfortunately, he’ll audition without tight end Kyle Pitts, and few remaining Falcons pass-catchers profile as matchup-winners down the field. Most likely, Ridder will look to make his name on versatile playmaking and safe throws underneath. Drake London should dominate his attention, but he’ll be keyed on by a deep, talented Saints secondary that hasn’t allowed even a 70-yard receiver since Week 7. Ridder may run well, find the end zone, and prove a great Week 15 QB2 streamer. But even his biggest supporters know his prospects through the air, at least at the moment, simply aren’t great.
The Saints continue to suffocate opposing passers at a league-best level. Last Sunday, Tom Brady became their first opponent since Week 6 to top 225 yards – and Brady was forced to throw 54 times in desperation mode. Overall, these last seven opponents have averaged a pitiful 205 yards at just 6.0 per throw, both nestled right near the bottom of the league’s rankings. And what’s most impressive is that they haven’t had All-Pro cornerback Marshon Lattimore in uniform this whole time. Without him, they’ve dominated with secondary depth and coach Dennis Allen’s long-established scheme, which smothers receivers on the outside and swarms the ball over the middle. New safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Marcus Maye, both adept at help coverage and at making plays, have been as impactful as just about any 2022 additions. Lattimore seemed close to suiting up last week, and there’s a chance he starts easing back on Sunday. But even without him, this is a lock-down unit that shouldn’t have much problem holding down Falcons rookie Desmond Ridder.
Chicago vs Philadelphia
The Bears have to be encouraged by Justin Fields’ growth in his second season. Over his last three starts, his deep arm has come alive, and his per-attempt mark has jumped from 7.1 to 8.7. Still, for all his playmaking, Fields remains a questionable decision-maker on his best day. Sunday’s loss put that on display, with two panicked interceptions in the final three minutes to help seal the deal. There was a lot to like about Fields’ day, but he’s still very much a project, and it’s hard to find the light for Sunday’s matchup. And of course, even on Fields’ most efficient of weeks, he never projects to much volume in this run-oriented attack. Last week’s 254 yards marked his season high through the air, after all, and he’s still working without WR1 Darnell Mooney. Tight end Cole Kmet is enjoying a breakout, but role players like Chase Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown are impossible to project. All those factors are enough to give some pause, but with the Eagles in town, this unit goes from speculative to a hard pass.
The Eagles continue to thank the scheduling gods for their incredible run of luck. Their opposing passers dating back to Week 6: Cooper Rush, Kenny Pickett, Davis Mills, Taylor Heinicke, Matt Ryan, Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill, and Daniel Jones. Now they’ll take on the Bears and Justin Fields, another low-volume passer who continues to baffle with poor decisions. That’s not to say that this looks like a fluky or overrated unit, though. It’s not sheer coincidence that the Eagles lead the league in yards allowed per throw (5.3) and sit second per game (204). This is a wildly talented group on all levels, adept at both pushing the pocket and limiting receivers downfield. The superstar cornerback duo of Darius Slay and James Bradberry has paid huge dividends, with both jockeying for All-Pro nods in their first season together. As long as Haason Reddick, Brandon Graham, and Josh Sweat (a combined 26.0 sacks and 49 knockdowns) are forcing the issue up front, Slay and Bradberry can be regarded as near-shutdown men on the outside. All told, most of the production posted against this group has come in garbage time, and for good reason. There’s no sense in expecting anything better from the shaky, run-oriented Bears offense.
Jacksonville vs Dallas
The Jaguars continue to watch Trevor Lawrence blossom into a metric darling and a true franchise quarterback. That’s fair whenever he plays as he did against the defensively shaky Chiefs, Ravens, and Titans. That said, this attack is still seeking week-to-week consistency, and it’s never an easy one to project. That’s true even in neutral matchups; against the aggressive Cowboys, even more will be asked of them. Lawrence and his receivers will need to lean on their instinct and chemistry, communicating and breaking off routes to beat the Cowboys’ rush and smothering coverage. They have the bodies to make plays in a vacuum, with big years from new faces Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, and Evan Engram. But none of them profile as matchup dominators, so they’ll be hard-pressed to make plays – especially if Lawrence spends the day on the run. He’s already faced each of the other three hard-charging NFC East pass rushes, averaging just 7.0 yards per throw at a 53% completion rate.
The Cowboys still boast one of 2022’s dominant pass defenses, sitting top-five in efficiency per throw (5.8 yards) and per game (207). They haven’t faced many good quarterbacks lately, which does skew those numbers some. But it’s worth noting they throttled Kirk Cousins (12 of 23 for 105 scoreless yards) last month and that they managed to hold Jalen Hurts to a ho-hum 16.9 fantasy points early in the year. There’s no question this group is talented and well-schemed enough to handle Trevor Lawrence. For starters, no one has rushed the passer like the Cowboys here in 2022. Led by Micah Parsons and DeMarcus Lawrence, they lead the league in pressure rate and sack rate, and they’ve singlehandedly changed whole game plans up front. That kind of pressure allows the Dallas secondary – which is good, but not great – to worry less about coverage and play more aggressively. Everyone knows about Trevon Diggs, who’s having another All-Pro caliber year as a shutdown cover man. But the scheme, predicated on pressure and splash plays, makes it easier to lose personnel like cornerback Anthony Brown. They’ll shuffle in depth pieces like DaRon Bland and Kelvin Joseph and likely not miss a beat.
Detroit at N.Y. Jets
The Lions, winners of five of six games and suddenly back in the playoff hunt, are a hard team to poke holes in right now. Jared Goff is playing his most efficient ball in four years, and they’ve assembled a dynamic group of weapons for him to throw to. That said, it must be noted that their recent successes have come against the bottom of the NFL’s barrel of pass defenses. They had little trouble shredding the Bears, Jaguars, and Vikings for 8.5 yards per throw, with six touchdowns. Against the Packers, Giants, and Bills, though, those marks dipped to 6.1 and four. Coach Dan Campbell is careful not to put too much onto Goff’s plate, preferring to win on the ground whenever possible. D.J. Chark has sparked over the past three weeks, but he’ll see a hefty dose of Sauce Gardner this Sunday. If pressed into a shootout, the Lions may not have the horses to work through a tough Jets secondary.
The Jets’ surprising success continues to come from their stout (and sometimes smothering) pass defense. Over the past month, they’ve faced Josh Allen and all his weapons twice, with Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson sandwiched in-between, and allowed them just 5.5 yards per throw, with only two touchdowns (with two interceptions). Most of the headlines belong to rookie extraordinaire Sauce Gardner, who’s broken out instantly as one of the league’s premier cornerbacks. He’s been dominant in coverage with few lapses, and he’s a huge reason this group is so tough to throw on downfield. Jefferson and Stefon Diggs, who combined for just 6.7 yards per target, can attest to that. Still, the underappreciated reason for the turnaround is the deep, versatile pass-rush unit, which sits top-10 in pressures and sacks despite blitzing a league-low 15% of the time. They’re more than capable of pushing Jared Goff into a classic “Goff vs. the Blitz” disaster. At the very least, Gardner is in a position to cut short D.J. Chark’s role as a splash-play deep threat.
|Week 15 Passing Matchups
|at Las Vegas
|vs Kansas City
|vs NY Giants
|vs LA Rams
|vs San Francisco
|at LA Chargers
|vs New England
|at Tampa Bay
|at Green Bay
|at NY Jets
|at New Orleans
Continue reading this content with a PRO subscription.
"Footballguys is the best premium
fantasy football only site on the planet."
Matthew Berry, NBC Sports EDGE