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Go here for this week's Rushing Matchups.
Top 5 Passing Matchups
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
The 2023 season has been a strange one for Derek Carr statistically, as there is very little middle ground in his performances as he has either looked like one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL or looked like a guy better served as a backup. On the year, Carr has six games with 300 or more yards, five games with fewer than 200 yards, and his other three games between 200 and 230 yards. There has not been a single game in which Derek Carr has thrown between 230-299 yards. Health has been an issue for the Saints all season as they lost Michael Thomas back in Week 10, and while there was hope that he would return this season, it seems unlikely at this point given that he is not practicing with the team. Chris Olave has been the consistent wide receiver for most of the year, but he too is dealing with an ankle injury that caused him to miss Week 15 and still has him limited in practice this week despite a 123-yard performance last week. This offense still has some hope for a playoff bid. If they win out and Tampa Bay loses their Week 18 game against Carolina, New Orleans would make the playoffs, so there is still a lot to play for this week.
Tampa Bay's secondary is a complete mess over the second half of the season. Since Week 8, the Buccaneers are allowing a league-high 299 passing yards per game as five of the nine quarterbacks all topped 300 yards, with the four that failed to do so being four below-average quarterbacks in Bryce Young, Jordan Love, Will Levis, and Desmond Ridder. While the Buccaneers have struggled with injuries to both starting corners Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis, both high-priced corners have struggled mightily after getting big contracts over the last two seasons. The Buccaneers could be without Davis this week as he still has not been cleared from the concussion he suffered early last week, but whether he plays or not, there likely will be no drop-off from Davis to Dee Delaney, who has had a journeyman-type career. Davis has been one of the league's worst cornerbacks this season, as he's allowing the most yards per game for any starter who has played more than half the season.
Kansas City vs Cincinnati
Kansas City's passing offense has been unable to find consistency and the precision that we are normally accustomed to this season. Turnovers, bad receiver play, and poor offensive line as the team tried to rebuild their line through free agency at the tackle position have all contributed to the struggles of this offense. Patrick Mahomes II has thrown a career-high 14 interceptions on the season. Travis Kelce, at age 34, seems to be fighting against father time as the tight end has not topped 100 yards since Week 6 and is averaging just 55 yards per game since that time. Meanwhile, Rashee Rice has been the lone wide receiver to make consistent contributions as the second-round pick has had a nice rookie season. Still, Rice is more of a possession receiver, averaging 11.0 yards per catch, which is 78th in the NFL this season.
The Bengals' secondary continues to struggle. Since Week 8, the Bengals have allowed the second-most passing yards per game at 297 per contest. Over the last five games, however, the results have been even less encouraging based on the low level of competition that they've faced. Over the last five games, the Bengals have allowed 290 yards and 2 touchdowns to Mason Rudolph, 303 yards and 2 touchdowns to Nick Mullens, 321 yards and 2 touchdowns to Trevor Lawrence/C.J. Beathard, 278 yards to Kenny Pickett, with their lone bright spot being against Gardner Minshew in Week 14 holding him to just 240 yards and a touchdown. The Bengals could get some good news this week as it appears they may get Cam Taylor-Britt back soon as the 21-day IR return window was activated this week. Taylor-Britt has been out since Week 11, and while he is not going to significantly change the outlook of this flawed defense, it is a marginal improvement over DJ Turner II, as the rookie just does not seem ready to play a big role for the Bengals. While the corners do have their issues, the big issue this week could be the tight end position, which will not be helped by Taylor-Britt's return. No team has allowed more yards to opposing tight ends, as the Bengals are allowing 80 yards to the position per game and have allowed both George Kittle and Pat Freiermuth to top 120 yards this season.
San Francisco at Washington
Brock Purdy's status for this game is largely up in the air as he left last week's game with a stinger after throwing four interceptions in a career-worst game against Baltimore. The recovery time can vary greatly from this type of injury to returning the next week to being a week-to-week thing, and while it appears that he is much closer to returning this week, we likely are not going to know until more information comes out of San Francisco. This remains one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL despite the struggles last week against Baltimore, and while the overall score looked ugly, there were some encouraging signs moving forward for this team. Most notably, George Kittle led the team in yards as the tight end had 126 yards on 10 targets, while Brandon Aiyuk also topped 100 yards with 113. If they can get consistent production out of George Kittle, this offense will be incredibly difficult to stop heading into the playoffs.
Washington's secondary statistically has improved over the last three weeks, but don't be fooled; this is still a very flawed defense. Over the last three games, the Commanders are allowing 251 passing yards per game, compared to the rest of the season's 278 yards per game. This has largely been due to the complete ineptness of their offense as Sam Howell, who started the year off great, has completely fallen apart, averaging just 95 yards passing over the last three games, which forced the Commanders to move to Jacoby Brissett this week after he almost led the comeback against the Jets. This remains a significantly flawed defense as Benjamin St-Juste has allowed the most yards to opposing wide receivers this season, while Jartavius Martin has started to show improvement but is still a second-round rookie who has struggled since replacing the 2023 first-round rookie Emmanuel Forbes Jr. One thing to watch is that coach Ron Rivera has been talking about getting Forbes some playing time over the last two weeks, but the talk from Rivera still has been that he needs to work on things to fit the defensive scheme, so if Forbes does get more playing time, especially at the cost of veteran Kendall Fuller who has been the bright spot on this defense, but missed practice on Wednesday, it could fall to even worse than we've seen it at any point this season.
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