Go here for this week's Rushing Matchups.
Top 3 Passing Matchups
NY Giants at Minnesota
The Giants passing game this season has mostly struggled, but it has shown glimpses that when they are facing the worst pass defenses in the NFL, it can be an elite offense on the rare occasion. Daniel Jones this season has thrown for under 230 yards in all but two games this season, and in those three contests, Jones has thrown for 334 and 341 yards. The good news for the Giants is that one of those occasions came against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 16, so the confidence in Jones and this passing offense has to be at an all-time high heading into their first playoff game since 2016. The Giants have been desperate to find a combination of wide receivers all year that can consistently produce. The Giants may have found a combination that at least can do enough to make a playoff run, as Isaiah Hodgins has four or more receptions in each of his last five games after being acquired from Buffalo earlier this season. Hodgins has paired well with Richie James, who leads the team in receptions, as he has effectively taken over the top receiving option in New York away from Darius Slayton, who has become more of a deep play receiver averaging 15.7 yards per reception.
The Vikings' pass defense is one that has been a mainstay on the top passing matchups all season. They are second in the NFL in passing yards allowed to quarterbacks, they’ve allowed the most receiving yards to wide receivers, they’ve allowed Daniel Jones, Mike White, Mac Jones, Jared Goff, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Teddy Bridgewater, Jalen Hurts, and the combination of Dak Prescott and Cooper Rush to all throw for over 300-yards against them. While Patrick Peterson has had a good year, the rest of the secondary has been a bit of a mess. The Vikings have desperately tried to find a number two corner, and while Duke Shelley has played somewhat better compared to Cameron Dantzler, who was injured and then did not win the position back, Shelley is still largely unproven on the outside and is woefully undersized to be an outside corner at just 5’9’’ which could cause problems if matched up against the 6-foot-3 Hodgins. The real problem for the Vikings has been at the slot position, as Chandon Sullivan has been the worst coverage corner in the NFL this season and has allowed a staggering 833 yards in coverage. This should open up an opportunity for Richie James to once again have a big game against this Vikings defense as he had 8 receptions for 90 yards in their first meeting.
Buffalo vs Miami
Josh Allen and the Bills' passing offense were off to a tremendous start of the season before being somewhat derailed because of an elbow injury to Allen back in Week 9. Prior to the injury, Allen averaged 314 yards passing per game. In the eight games after the injury, he threw for just 235 yards per game. The good news for Allen is that in both matchups against the Dolphins this season, he has thrown for over 300 yards as he threw for 400 yards back in Week 3 pre-injury and 304 yards in Week 16 post-injury. After some recent struggles, Stefon Diggs got back on track in Week 18 as he did not have a 100-yard game in his prior 6 games before a 7-reception 104-yard game in Week 18 against the Patriots. Diggs has struggled against the Dolphins as he has not topped 75 yards in either of their two appearances this season, but the pathway to success for the Bills has been through their running backs and tight ends as Devin Singletary and Dawson Knox both had big games against the Dolphins in their two meetings earlier this season.
The Dolphins on paper should be a better pass defense than what they’ve been this season. This is a defense that has invested heavily in what they expected to be two elite corners in Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, but a combination of poor performance from Howard, and an offseason surgery went wrong from Jones has led the Dolphins to a point where they are allowing the 5th most passing yards per game and the third most fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks. While they have not been the lockdown unit that they expected to be heading into this season against opposing wide receivers, they have been league average allowing the 15th most receiving yards to opposing wide receivers this season. Where the Dolphins have struggled the most is against tight ends and running backs as they are 3rd in passing yards allowed to tight ends (56) and 7th against running backs (46), which almost directly correlates to these two teams' first two meetings as Dawson Knox (98 yards and a touchdown) was the leading receiver in their most recent contest, while Devin Singletary (78 yards and a touchdown) leading receiver in their early contest. This was a team that was set up to stop the run and leave the corners somewhat on an island, and because of that, they have run-stopping specialists in linebacker Elandon Roberts and Eric Rowe trying to defend these positions which have created a weak link in the defense.
Tampa Bay vs Dallas
Whether or not this is Tom Brady’s last season remains to be seen, but Tampa Bay’s playoff hopes rest on the arm of the 45-year-old Brady, who is playing the best football of his season over the last quarter of the year. Excluding Week 18 in which Brady played only a portion of the game, Brady has thrown for 250 yards or more in each of his last five games and is averaging 311.8 yards passing. The good news for the Buccaneers is that Mike Evans should be coming in with significant confidence after his Week 17 performance in which he had 207 yards and 3 touchdowns after a very disappointing season for the four-time Pro Bowl receiver. If this offense can continue to click, this is a team that can be dangerous in the playoffs, but they’ll need their offensive line to hold up as it has been a unit that has been decimated by injuries, with Ryan Jensen and Ali Marpet retiring in the offseason. While the Buccaneers have been sacked the fewest of any team in the NFL this season, it has impacted their downfield passing game. When Brady has time, he can still pick just about any defense apart.
This week, there are only two great passing matchups, while the rest of the matchups are neutral or worse. The Cowboys are a defense that has been a solid unit on the season but has shown some cracks as of late as they’ve allowed 350+ yards in two of their last four games, which were to Gardner Minshew and Trevor Lawrence. Trevon Diggs has been a frequently targeted corner as he’s allowed the 8th-most receiving yards this season when in coverage. The big issue as of late for the Cowboys has been the lack of pass rush. This was a unit that started out as one of the best pass rushes that we’ve seen in a very long time, led by Micah Parsons and Demarcus Lawrence, but they have just 10 sacks over the last six games compared to 42 in the other 11 games. This is a defense that if they’re going to make a deep playoff run, they’re going to have to get back to that elite pass rush that forced quarterbacks into quick throws as their cornerbacks are the weakest point on their defense, so if Tom Brady has time he will pick the Cowboys apart this week.
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