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Week 19 Passing Matchups

by Mark Wimer and Joe Bryant, Exclusive to Footballguys.com

Great Matchups:
Good Matchups: [ARI] [DAL] [MIN] [NO]
Neutral Matchups: [BAL] [IND] [NYJ]
Tough Matchups: [SD]
Bad Matchups:


PLEASE NOTE: This does NOT replace the Cheatsheet ranking. The Cheatsheet rankings are the final say on where we see a player for that week. The Matchup Breakdowns are simply one more tool in the box when it comes to helping choose your lineup.

Also note, just because a player has a "bad" matchup, it does NOT mean he's not a starter in your league. If Peyton Manning is playing the toughest pass defense in the league, that just means he's got a tough matchup that week. He's also your starter unless you're loaded at QB. In the same way, if the worst QB on your roster has a "great" matchup that week, it doesn't necessarily mean he's your starter. It means we think he'll fare better than normal that week.

Bottom line is that the cheatsheets are the final say.


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense at New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The 2010 wild card matchup between Green Bay and Arizona was one of the all-time highest scoring games ever during the playoffs, with a total of 96 points scored during the game. Neither team's defense could find an answer for the other offense until the OT period, when Karlos Dansby dashed the Packers' hopes with a 17 yard fumble return for a TD to end the contest 51-45. Kurt Warner was outrageously good in the wild card contest, hitting 29/33 for 379 yards and five TDs passing, with zero interceptions thrown. Steve Breaston (7/125/1 receiving to lead the team), Larry Fitzgerald (6/82/2) and Early Doucet (6/77/2) all snagged scoring passes from Warner while Anquan Boldin nursed his sore left ankle and knee on the sidelines. Boldin said he is feeling much better Tuesday, Jan. 12, and is optimistic that he will play in the team's playoff game this weekend. He said Tuesday that he 'was able to move around a little bit' for the first time since he injured his left ankle and knee in Week 17. Boldin is hoping to practice Wednesday, Jan. 13, or Thursday, Jan. 14. We'll see how his leg responds to the stress of practicing - people invested in the Cardinals' passing attack will want to monitor his progress later this week in Footballguys.com's players in the news recap.

The Saints pass D generated the third-most interceptions last season with 26 picks to their credit, while also rushing the opposing passer fairly successfully (35 sacks, tied for 13th in the NFL). FS Darren Sharper missed the final regular season game with a sore knee, but he should be rested and ready to play in the divisional round of the playoffs - he's the player with nine interceptions and 15 passes defensed for the Saints. The team hopes he can help defend Warner and company this weekend. Over the final four games of regular season, the Saints coughed up 1,009 net passing yards (252.3 per game), with three interceptions and nine sacks to their credit, while allowing 90 points from scrimmage. Tampa Bay and Carolina defeated the Saints, with 21/31 for 263 net yards, zero TDs and two interceptions thrown by Josh Freeman in week 16 and 14/23 for 149 net yards, one TD and zero interceptions thrown by Matt Moore in the season finale.

Warner and company looked automatic last week, but he'll have to take care of the football against the ball-hawking Saints. In the raucous Louisiana Superdome audibles will be a challenge this week - all told, this looks like good, but not great, matchup for the Cardinals, on balance.

Weather: Inside the Louisiana Superdome, weather won't impact either team.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Tony Romo and the Cowboys finally got their first playoff victory during the Romo era last week, destroying the Eagles 34-14. Romo was outstanding against the aggressive Eagles, protecting the football (zero interceptions thrown, zero fumbles) while racking up 23/35 for 244 yards and two passing TDs. Miles Austin led all receivers with 7/82/1 to his credit, while Roy Williams showed up for the contest (5/59/0). Patrick Crayton (3/34/0), Felix Jones (1/30/0) and Jason Witten (4/27/0) all contributed valuable first downs during the effort. Little-known TD John Phillips (1/1/1) handled the first TD that Romo tossed during the contest. Over the past four games, Romo has thrown for at least one TD per contest, ranging between 244 and 312 yards passing - he's thrown a total of six TDs vs. just two interceptions during that time span. The Cowboy's passing attack is hot, folks.

The Vikings' pass D had a week to rest up before resuming a full slate of practices this week - the team hopes that CB Antoine Winfield (foot injury) can be closer to 100% healthy for the divisional matchup than he was to end regular season. Winfield was burned for the game-losing TD during OT at Chicago in week 16 and then relegated to light duty in the nickel D during the season finale. After 16 regular season games, the Vikings' pass D averaged 218.4 net passing yards allowed per game (19th in the NFL), with 26 passing TDs given away vs. just 11 interceptions generated. They do rush opposing passers ferociously (the team generated 48 sacks last year, the most in the NFL) - Dallas was tied for 15th in the NFL with 34 sacks allowed (the Eagles sacked Romo twice last week and hit him four other times) - look for the Vikings to come after Romo early and often this week.

Though the Vikings' defenders are good pass rushers, they don't generate much in the way of interceptions and they've been burned for a lot of TD passes this year. Romo held up under the pressure that Philadelphia can bring to bear last week, and we don't expect him to fold like a tent this week either. On balance, this looks like a good matchup for the visiting Cowboys.

Weather: Inside the Metrodome, weather conditions won't affect either team.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Brett Favre went into the post-season off a high note, after trashing the Giants' secondary for 25/31 yielding 316 passing yards and four TDs, with zero interceptions. It was his second straight game with over 300 yards passing (he threw for 26/40 yielding 321 yards, two TDs and zero interceptions at Chicago week 16). Percy Harvin (18 targets for 11/99/0), Sidney Rice (14 for 12/168/3), Visanthe Shiancoe (12 for 11/134/2) and Bernard Berrian (8 for 5/108/0) were the main cogs in the passing attack during Favre's red-hot streak to end the season weeks 16 and 17. He should be good to go with a full week of rest during the bye to heal up his various bumps and bruises from regular season.

The Cowboys' defense has been very frugal with points of late, allowing just 14 points over the past three weeks - they shut out Washington and Philadelphia to end regular season, and then dominated the Eagles again in the wild card round of the playoffs 34-14. All told, the Eagles threw for 20/39 for 284 net yards, two TDs and one interception (McNabb's 19/37 for 230 yards, one TD and one interception being boosted by a 76-yard bomb thrown by Mike Vick to Jeremy Maclin during the second quarter). To close regular season, the Cowboys allowed 905 yards passing in their final four games (226.3 per contest on average), which is right on pace for this team. Dallas averaged 225.4 net yards allowed per game last season (20th in the NFL), with 19 passing TDs given away vs. 11 interceptions and 42 sacks generated. The Vikings allowed 34 sacks last year, tied for 15th in the NFL.

Favre and company are going full tilt entering the divisional round of the playoffs, while the Cowboys' pass defenders reverted to their usual mediocre form during the wild card round of the playoffs - advantage, Minnesota.

Weather: Inside the Metrodome, weather conditions won't affect either team.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense vs Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Over the final four games in which he appeared (weeks 13-16), Drew Brees passed for seven TDs and two interceptions, with a minimum of 258 yards passing (vs. Tampa Bay, 32/37 for 258 yards, one TD and zero interceptions) and a maximum of 419 yards passing (35/49 for 419 yards, two TDs and one interception at Washington). Six players were targeted more than 20 times during the four weeks described above: Marques Colston (31 targets for 21/263/2 receiving), Devery Henderson (28 for 16/149/0), Robert Meachem (26 for 22/308/2), David Thomas (24 for 18/142/0), Reggie Bush (21 for 18/128/2), and Pierre Thomas (21 for 19/167/0). The team hopes to get Jeremy Shockey back in the mix for this divisional playoff game - he missed the final two games of the season due to a turf toe injury, but has had several weeks of rest to help the digit recuperate.

The Cardinal's pass D was torched relentlessly by Aaron Rodgers and company last week - in the end, Arizona won 51-45 but they allowed 28/402 for 403 net yards, four TDs and one interception in the course of the wild barn-burner at University of Phoenix Stadium last week. Two of the Packers' receivers went well over 100 yards receiving during the contest. During the season finale, Rodgers threw for 21/26 yielding 235 pass yards, one TD and zero interceptions vs. the Cardinals - they haven't been defensing the pass very well of late, as you can see. Over the final four weeks of the regular season, the Cardinals gave up only 645 net yards passing (161.3 per game on average), with eight interceptions and eight sacks to their credit during that time span - but the entire unit crashed and burned last week. For the season, Arizona averaged 233.7 net passing yards allowed per game (23rd in the NFL), with 22 passing TDs given away and 21 interceptions generated, along with 43 sacks posted. They ranked seventh in interceptions generated last season, and sixth in terms of total sacks. However, the Saints were fourth in the NFL last season with just 20 sacks allowed through 16 contests.

A high-octane passing attack will clash with an aggressive, attacking pass defense in this contest - on balance, this looks like a good matchup for the Saints, who have a slight edge on the visiting Cardinals (who are still working to overcome last week's near-disaster at home in Phoenix).

Weather: Inside the Louisiana Superdome, weather won't impact either team.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense at Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Joe Flacco couldn't seal the deal vs. Indianapolis back in week 11, posting 23/35 for 256 yards, zero TDs and one interception during the 15-17 loss to the Colts. Derrick Mason posted huge numbers during the game (9/142/0 receiving out of 16 targets), and Ray Rice racked up 7/64/0 out of 10 chances, but in the end the Ravens fell a little short.

Flacco didn't need to do much at all in order to destroy the Patriots 33-14 last week - the team ran the ball 52 times and asked Flacco to throw just 10 passes all day long (4/10 for 34 yards, zero TDs and one interception). Nobody on the team caught more than one pass, and nobody went over 20 yards receiving last week (Mark Clayton led the team with 1/17/0). Basically, the Ravens dared New England to shut down their rushing attack, and the Patriots failed to do so - the passing game was almost unnecessary last week. Flacco hasn't thrown a TD in the past two games (he went 11/19 for 102 yards, with zero TDs and zero interceptions during the season finale at Oakland) and his team has still won handily on both occasions. One item to note this week - Todd Heap is having more trouble with back spasms, but he did practice fully on Tuesday. He's battled back problems all season long - we'll see if the muscles will calm down in time for Heap to play on Saturday.

The Colts' pass D ended the regular season ranked 14th in the NFL, averaging 212.7 net yards allowed per game - they coughed up 19 TDs last season while generating 16 interceptions and 34 sacks (they were in the middle of the NFL range in both of the latter two categories). From weeks 13-16, when the Colts were still playing most of their starters, the team allowed 792 net passing yards (198 net yards per contest on average). In the season finale, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw 16/25 for 155 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions. The Colts backed into the playoffs, with two straight losses while they rested their star players in weeks 16 and 17.

Flacco doesn't get asked to win games for the Ravens - in the deafening confines of Lucas Oil Stadium, look for the Ravens to again rely heavily on their running backs while Flacco makes the occasional throw to keep the Colts' defenders honest. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup.

Weather: Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the retractable roof will be closed - weather won't impact this matchup.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Peyton Manning posted one of his less-impressive games this season the last time he faced the Ravens, tossing 22/31 for 299 yards, one TD and two interceptions during the 17-15 win. Pierre Garcon had the Ravens' number in that game, with eight targets for 6/108/0 receiving, while Reggie Wayne (7/89/0 receiving on 10 targets) and Tom Santi posted eight targets for 6/80/0 receiving during the game. Dallas Clark snagged the TD from Manning with 1/3/1 on the day. It's strange to call a 299-yard passing performance 'less-impressive' than usual, but this year the only game in which Manning passed for more interceptions than TDs was during week 11 vs. Baltimore. Manning ended regular season as the fifth-ranked fantasy QB in the land, with 393/571 for 4,500 yards, 33 TDs and 16 interceptions on his balance sheet. Reggie Wayne caught 100 passes last season (100/1,264/10) to land at fifth among all fantasy WRs - Austin Collie landed at 37th with 60/676/7 and Pierre Garcon saw 47/765/4 receiving last year (42nd in the NFL among fantasy receivers). Dallas Clark led all fantasy TEs with 100 receptions for 1,106 yards and 10 TDs - as you can see, the Colts' receivers are among the leagues' most dangerous players.

The Ravens ended the season ranked eighth in the NFL averaging 207.2 net passing yards allowed per game, with 17 pass TDs surrendered balanced by 22 interceptions generated (fifth in the NFL) and 32 sacks in all (in the middle of the NFL range (from 14-48)). The Raiders threw for 27/39 yielding 274 net yards, one TD and one interception during the season finale; Ben Roethlisberger managed 17/33 for 238 net yards, one TD and one interception during the week 16 win over Baltimore (23-20). However, the pass defense elevated their game in Foxboro last week, frustrating Tom Brady for four turnovers (three interceptions and a strip/sack resulting in a lost fumble for Brady). All told, the Patriots managed just 23/42 for 132 net yards, two TDs and three interceptions during the wild card round.

The Colts' passing attack is an elite unit, but up against the solid Ravens we think neither team holds a decisive edge. This looks like a neutral matchup from where we're sitting.

Weather: Inside Lucas Oil Stadium, the retractable roof will be closed - weather won't impact this matchup.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


New York Jets Passing Offense at San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Jets played to their strengths last week in Cincinnati, rushing the football 41 times for 171 yards and two rushing TDs while throwing just 15 passes all day long (12/15 for 182 yards, one TD and zero interceptions). Sanchez relied on his two most familiar targets during the wild card round, throwing four passes for 3/99/1 to Dustin Keller and six for 6/67/0 to Jerricho Cotchery. Braylon Edwards caught half the balls that came his way last Saturday, with four targets for 2/15/0 receiving. The Jets' attack wasn't flashy last week, but Sanchez successfully threw the ball when the coaches asked him to move the chains through the air.

The Chargers' pass D ended regular season ranked 11th in the NFL, averaging 209.2 net yards allowed per game. They did hand over 23 passing TDs this past season, though, vs. 14 interceptions and 35 sacks generated. During the final four games of regular season, San Diego coughed up 895 net passing yards, with three interceptions and five sacks generated vs. 78 total points allowed from scrimmage. Jason Campbell threw for 28/42 yielding 275 net yards, two TDs and zero interceptions during the season finale, while Vince Young was limited to 8/21 for 89 yards, zero TDs and two interceptions back in week 16. This unit has been up and down in performance of late (though the week 17 game was meaningless, it was still a sour note for this unit).

Sanchez isn't asked to carry his team, but he did throw the ball well when asked to do so during his first career playoff game. Against the so-so Chargers, this looks like a neutral matchup for New York's low octane passing attack.

Weather: The forecast for San Diego calls for beautiful weather - 67 F for a high on Sunday afternoon and just a 10% chance of rain - conditions shouldn't play much of a role in the outcome of this game.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense vs New York Jets Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Last Saturday, the Jets' pass D showed us why they were #1 in the NFL (averaging just 153.7 net yards allowed per game) during regular season at defending opposing QBs. Carson Palmer and company were limited to 18/36 for 110 net yards, one TD and one interception during the 14-24 loss to New York - lead WR Chad Ochocinco joined a long list of #1 WRs shut down by CB Darrelle Revis this season/post-season, managing just 2/28/0 receiving during the game. The Jets are tough to score on (just eight passing TDs given up over 16 regular season games), and generate turnovers regularly (17 interceptions were recorded by the Jets last season, with the 18th coming last week vs. Palmer). The Jets' pass D is as tough as they come in the NFL, folks.

The Chargers' passing attack was fifth in the NFL last year, averaging 271.1 yards per game, with 29 TDs and just 10 interceptions thrown all year long - the team gave up 26 sacks through 16 games (tied for sixth-best in the NFL). Phillip Rivers closed regular season with 9/15 for 99 yards and one TD in an abbreviated appearance vs. Washington during week 17, and had 75/112 for 943 yards, 7 TDs and 3 interceptions to his credit in the final four weeks of regular season (12th-best fantasy QB in points per game - the partial game in the finale moved him down the board). All told, Rivers had 317/486 for 4,254 passing yards, 28 TDs and just nine interceptions thrown last season. He's one of the premier QBs in the NFL.

The Chargers have an outstanding QB and great receivers in Antonio Gates (79/1157/8 receiving last year, #4 fantasy TE in the land) and Vincent Jackson (68/1167/9 receiving last year, 12th-best fantasy WR). However, the Jets have been a tough nut to crack all year long and they figure to give Rivers and company all they can handle on Sunday afternoon. Advantage, New York.

Weather: The forecast for San Diego calls for beautiful weather - 67 F for a high on Sunday afternoon and just a 10% chance of rain - conditions shouldn't play much of a role in the outcome of this game.

The official NFL injury report with Probable, Questionable, Doubtful and Out designations will be available by Saturday. Please refer to the week 19 injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.