Go here for this week's Rushing Matchups.
Top 5 Passing Matchups
Jacksonville vs Tennessee
The Jaguars come surging into this do-or-die divisional date, largely on the arm of franchise passer Trevor Lawrence. Dating back to their Week 11 bye, only three full-time quarterbacks have beaten Lawrence’s 105.2 rating – higher than Patrick Mahomes II, Josh Allen, or Justin Herbert. And these Jaguars clearly have the horses to pile up numbers against the porous, pass-funnel Titans. Just four weeks ago, Lawrence dazzled his way to 33.4 fantasy points in this very matchup. Tennessee struggled most inside that day, with tight end Evan Engram (11 catches, 162 yards, 2 touchdowns) and slot man Zay Jones (8 for 77 and 1) leading the way. But Christian Kirk, who’s cleared 70 yards in 9 of his 16 games, is always capable of a WR2 day on the outside. Simply put, all the principals of this unit project well for the finale.
The Titans don’t look to anyone like a true playoff team, and it’s not just because of their bare quarterback room. They also trot out one of the league’s weakest pass defenses to slow down a surging Trevor Lawrence. It’s the same Lawrence who dazzled in this matchup just a month ago, hitting on 30 of 42 throws for 368 yards and 3 touchdowns (no turnovers). The Titans have spent 2022 so dominant against the run (second in the league) that opponents are pushed to throw relentlessly. And they’ve done so with tremendous success: along with Lawrence, seven of the last nine have cleared 270 yards. Despite heavy draft investments into the secondary, the team is down to reserve-caliber guys like Roger McCreary, Tre Avery, and Joshua Kalu in every-down roles. Even All-Pro safety Kevin Byard, typically the glue in this unit, has slogged through his worst season in years. On paper, it all points to a high-flying day for Lawrence and his weapons, who can win their battles downfield.
Minnesota at Chicago
The Vikings are a strange team. If you only watched last week’s game or the Cowboys game earlier this season, these are two games for which the team simply never showed up. As soon as they started, you could tell that this was not the same dynamic offense that has carried the Vikings to a 12-4 record so far this season. For all his criticisms, Kirk Cousins has leaned hard on his dynamic weapons and compiled count stats all year: 623 attempts (third league-wide), 4,322 yards (fourth), and 28 touchdowns (sixth). When the Vikings win, it’s typically because Cousins and all-world wideout Justin Jefferson connected at least 5-7 times. Jefferson has taken his star even a step further from last year: he’s produced 98+ yards in 11 of 16 games, with 4 of them landing over 150. His towering 28% target share is as secure as any in football. Behind him are a handful of complementary guys, tough to project week-to-week but always packed with upside. It’s worth noting that tight end T.J. Hockenson has matched Jefferson 37-37 in targets over the past three weeks.
The Bears just need the season to end. Coach Matt Eberflus has his work cut out his offseason, and he’ll surely focus some attention on this talent-starved secondary. After a promising start to the year, they’ve crumbled, allowing big games down the stretch to the likes of Mike White (315 yards, 3 touchdowns) and Jared Goff just last week (255 and 3). Rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon has struggled mightily in an every-down role, and there’s no depth to speak of around him. The Bears are forced to surround Gordon with spare parts, and opposing wideouts have taken advantage with huge stat lines. It doesn’t help, of course, that the stripped-down pass rush is almost nonexistent. A front seven that sits dead last in both pressures and sacks will always put far too much pressure on a young, shallow secondary. All told, it’s hard to see how this group keeps pace with Justin Jefferson and company. After all, when these teams met back in Week 5, Jefferson turned 13 targets into 12 catches and 154 yards.
Chicago vs Minnesota
The Bears have stated that Justin Fields will not play in the 2022 finale due to a hip injury that caused him to exit last week’s contest early against the Lions. The Bears will start Nathan Peterman, who has had his challenges in his five-season career but is in a tremendous spot to get a spot start that, if it goes well, will likely earn him a few more years as a league backup. While Peterman is unlikely to be leaned upon as a fantasy starter unless you’re in an extremely deep league in Week 18, the Bears' weapons around Peterman are somewhat intriguing, given the matchup. The Bears need to figure out what they have in players such as Chase Claypool, who the team traded their second-round pick for, and Velus Jones Jr, who has just six receptions for a third-round rookie. As dynamic as Justin Fields is, Peterman should give the wide receivers more of an upside, given that Fields has thrown for over 200 yards just twice this season.
The Vikings’ pass defense limps into Week 18, and they’ve been a regular feature in this article as they have one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. Only the Bears and Lions have given up more yards per throw (7.4), and only the Titans top them on a per-game basis (288). It’s one thing when a Patrick Mahomes II or a Josh Allen chews through your secondary for a big day; that doesn’t necessarily damn a defense. It’s telling when you’re giving up season-best lines to the likes of Mac Jones (28 of 39 for 382 yards and 2 touchdowns), Daniel Jones (30 of 42 for 334 and 1), and Mike White (31 of 57 for 369). Aaron Rodgers and the Packers hardly needed to throw at all last week, but even they were plenty efficient while the game was competitive. It’s hard to pinpoint the Vikings’ problems from week to week, as they boast ample talent all over the field. But inconsistency has plagued the secondary, and neither Patrick Peterson nor Harrison Smith, both resurgent All-Pros, have been enough. Opposing wideouts run free through their zones, creating the league’s second-most plays of 20+ yards and stockpiling numbers. The Bears don’t boast a go-to receiving threat, but all their complementary pieces get a boost in this golden matchup.
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