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Go here for this week's Rushing Matchups.
Top 5 Passing Matchups
NY Jets at Denver
While most coaches say that there are no moral victories in sports, last week's performance for Zach Wilson was certainly a moral victory. After most had completely written him off as an NFL player, with fans calling for the Jets to trade for anyone with a pulse, Wilson outplayed Patrick Mahomes II as he completed 72% of his passes, threw for two touchdowns, and managed the game. While the team fell just short, this is a building block for the Jets and Wilson, who is in a make-or-break season. The Jets have had an incredibly difficult schedule to start the season as they have faced Buffalo, Dallas, New England, and Kansas City, three of the top five teams in the NFL. The good news for Wilson is that the schedule will get easier, and this should inspire some confidence for this offense, which previously had been struggling to be adequate along with the Jets' defense to keep them in games.
The Denver Broncos' defense has all but fallen apart this season. After having somewhat high hopes of being able to build around Patrick Surtain and safeties Kareem Jackson and Justin Simmons, this is a defense that just has not been able to put anything together. Surtain has been one of the lone bright spots on this team as corner Damarri Mathis has been one of the league's worst corners while the safeties have been extremely disappointing, albeit, in Justin Simmons' case, he has been dealing with a hip injury that has caused him to miss games. This is a Broncos defense that, on the season, has allowed 303 yards per game, including 299 yards to Sam Howell, and last week, Justin Fields threw for 335 yards and 4 touchdowns in his best passing game as a pro. One has to worry about where this defense's current mindset is, as they have allowed a league-high 37.5 points per game, with Chicago being the only other team allowing more than 30.
Washington vs Chicago
Sam Howell and the Commanders' passing attack has been a surprising unit in the 2023 season. From a statistical perspective, it has been a bit up and down. The good is that Howell is completing 67% of his passes and has two games in which he has thrown for 290 yards or more. The bad is that Howell is holding onto the ball for far too long, as he has been sacked a staggering 24 times this season, which is the most in the NFL, and the Giants are the only other team to have more than 17. Turnovers have also been a problem for Howell as he has thrown 5 interceptions, which is the fourth-most in the NFL his season. After signing a massive contract this offseason, Terry McLaurin has yet to elevate his game to show that he was worth one of the highest contracts in the league for receivers.
The Bears defense at this point might be historically bad. On the season, the Bears are allowing 34.3 points per game, which is second to only Denver who allowed 70 points in one game. The Bears spent a lot of money in trying to rebuild this defense through free agency, and they may have just made it worse compared to the last several seasons. There are a number of major issues, a weak secondary made worse by injuries, but the biggest issue for Chicago is that they have virtually zero pass rush. On the season, the Bears have just two sacks on the year, with the next closest team having four sacks. Yannick Ngakoue, Demarcus Walker, and Dominique Robinson have all struggled to put any pressure on the quarterback. In the secondary, the Bears are missing their top two coverage players, Jaylon Johnson and Eddie Jackson, leaving the Bears incredibly thin in the secondary as they've already lost corners Kyler Gordon and Josh Blackwell, both of whom are on IR this season. Statistically, the Bears are allowing the sixth-most passing yards per game, and the only reason that this isn't higher is that they have been involved in several blowouts. They are allowing a staggering 2.5 passing touchdowns per game, which is the second-most in the NFL.
LA Rams vs Philadelphia
Don't look now, but Matthew Stafford and the Rams may have one of the most intriguing offenses in the NFL heading into Week 5. The Rams should be getting Cooper Kupp back this week. Prior to the season, most felt that Kupp's injury would come at a point where the Rams were struggling mightily and desperately needed him back. Four weeks later, Kupp is a luxury for an offense that is second in the NFL in passing yards, as Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell both have looked great for the Rams. It remains to be seen how the volume will be split once Kupp does return, but we have to think that both of those receivers will at the very least have a role in this offense with Van Jefferson likely relegated to the bench as he has struggled throughout the season.
It's incredibly surprising to see the Eagles' secondary struggle as much as they have so far this season. On the season, the Eagles are allowing the fifth-most passing yards per game (279) while facing one of the easiest schedules in the NFL. So far this season, the Eagles have faced Mac Jones, Kirk Cousins, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Howell, and have allowed 290 yards or more in 3 of those games. This was one of the league's best units in 2022, allowing just 207 passing yards per game. The key difference for the Eagles is primarily due to departures this offseason. The Eagles lost both of their safeties, C.J. Gardner-Johnson and Marcus Epps. On the defensive line, the Eagles lost a critical piece in Javon Hargrave who had 11 sacks last season. The pass rush has been a big difference compared to 2022, when the Eagles set the NFL record with 70 sacks, while this season, the Eagles have just 11 sacks, which is tied for 16th in the NFL. At corner, the Eagles also lost Avonte Maddox who was placed on IR with a pectoral injury. This has left second-year undrafted Josh Jobe, who has struggled mightily this season, while Darius Slay, who is approaching 33 years of age, is showing his age as he has struggled in coverage.
Cincinnati at Arizona
The Bengals backs are against the wall after being embarrassed last week against Tennessee in a great passing matchup that they should have been able to exploit. Instead what we got was a complete mess from the Bengals as Joe Burrow threw for just 165 yards, which was the fewest passing yards that the Titans have allowed since Week 8 last season when Davis Mills threw for just 152 yards. To make matters worse, Tee Higgins may not play this week due to a broken rib although from an efficiency standpoint until Higgins can get healthy it may be best to sit him as he has caught just 12 of his 32 targets so far this season. The one bright spot continues to be JaMarr Chase, who has averaged 107 receiving yards over his last two games.
The Cardinals have faced one of the easiest quarterback schedules in the NFL so far this season and still find themselves as statistically one of the worst pass defenses in the NFL. After trading Isiah Simmons in the offseason, the Cardinals find themselves relying on Marco Wilson and rookie Kei'Trel Clark, both of whom have been some of the worst corners in the NFL this season. Wilson has allowed the most passing yards in coverage in the NFL this season, while Clark is ninth. The Cardinals have yet to face the gauntlet of quarterbacks who can light up a scoreboard as they have faced Brock Purdy, Daniel Jones, Dak Prescott, and Sam Howell. Between those four quarterbacks, only Purdy has thrown for 300 yards this season against opponents other than the Cardinals. Purdy was extremely efficient last week, completing 20 of his 21 passes.
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