Week 18 Passing Matchups

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

Jump to Rushing Matchups

Great Matchups: [GB]
Good Matchups: [SEA]
Neutral Matchups: [CIN]
Tough Matchups: [HOU] [KC] [PIT] [WAS]
Bad Matchups: [MIN]


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 Aaron Rodgers 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.


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

This is the first meeting between Green Bay and Washington this season - they didn't face off in pre- or regular season during 2015.

Offensive Tackle David Bakhtiari was unable to practice until Friday last week due to his injured ankle, he was limited on Friday, and he was inactive on Sunday after being listed as questionable to play on Friday's injury report. Aaron Rodgers took five sacks during Week 17 after taking eight Week 16 (without Bakhtiari on the field in either game). The Packers' pass protection is a major issue for this offense entering the Wild Card round of the playoffs - Washington is tied for 14th in the NFL after regular season with 38 sacks to their credit.

Despite his sorry offensive line, Rodgers threw 28/44 for 291 yards passing, one TD and one interception against the Vikings last week. The rushing game is almost non-existent right now, so Green Bay is relying on Rodgers' passing arm. James Jones is the clear #1 wide receiver entering the playoffs, with a team-high 13 targets for 4/102/0 receiving vs. Minnesota. Richard Rodgers (eight for 7/59/1), Davante Adams (six for 4/54/0) and Randall Cobb (eight for 6/37/0) are also in the mix, but Adams and Cobb aren't creating much separation from opposing defensive backs and they average 9.7 and 10.5 yards per reception this season, compared to Jones' 17.8 yards per reception average.

The Washington pass D has allowed the second-most fantasy points in the NFL per game to opposing quarterbacks over the past four contests (26.9 per game on average); they are the most generous pass D to opposing wide receivers in that time frame, averaging 29.2 fantasy points allowed per game; and they are giving up the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends averaging 12.1 per contest. Yikes! Last week (while Washington rested a lot of first-teamers in anticipation of the playoffs), Dallas managed 33/48 for 412 net yards passing, three TDs and two interceptions thrown vs. Washington. Two weeks ago Philadelphia posted 37/56 for 353 net yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions thrown vs. Washington.

This looks like an enticing matchup for the Packers' passing attack.

Weather: FedEx Field expects a temperature around 51 F on Sunday, with light drizzle falling, and wind around 10 MPH. As long as the rain doesn't intensify during the game, conditions shouldn't impact unduly on either team during this contest.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Vikings were crushed 7-38 vs. Seattle back in Week 13 - Russell Wilson bombed them for 21/27 yielding 274 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions thrown, with 9/51/1 rushing to his credit as well. Wilson hit Doug Baldwin (seven targets for 5/94/2 receiving) and Fred Jackson (two for 2/13/1) for his TDs during Week 13.

Wilson unloaded on Arizona last Sunday for 19/28 yielding 197 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions - he's now thrown for three or more TDs each game in six of his last seven outings. Wilson is playing at the apex of his abilities right now, peaking when the games really count. Last Sunday, Doug Baldwin had his madcap string of five games in a row with at least one TD broken, going with seven targets for 5/46/0 receiving, while Jermaine Kearse (three for 3/41/1), Chase Coffman (five for 4/29/1) and fullback Will Tukuafu (one target for 1/7/1 receiving) punched in Wilson's TD passes. It's all good for the Seahawks in this phase of the game entering Wild Card weekend.

The Vikings frustrated Aaron Rodgers last Sunday, limiting Green Bay to just one TD pass despite 28/44 for 274 yards passing (Rodgers also threw and interception and was sacked five times for -17 yards). Minnesota is now tied for seventh in the NFL with 43 sacks generated, which is a worry for the Seahawks (Seattle is 27th in the NFL with 46 sacks allowed and they have allowed the second-most hits on quarterback with 114 - of course, Russell Wilson's rushing abilities mean he gets hit more often than most NFL starters, but 46 sacks on the year is far too many allowed). To date, the Vikings rank 12th in the NFL averaging 234.9 net passing yards allowed per game, with 24 passing scores given out vs. 13 interceptions generated (tied for 17th in the NFL). Over the past four weeks, the Vikings have coughed up an average of 20.3 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks (15th in the NFL); 23.3 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (13th-most in the NFL); and an average of 7.5 fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends (15th in the NFL). Any way you slice it this is an average, so-so, blah pass D.

Advantage, Seattle.

Weather: TCF Bank Stadium expects a temperature around 0 F on Sunday, with winds around 14 MPH. In cold and windy conditions, the passing and kicking games are more problematic than usual, and the football becomes hard and slick, causing ball-handling issues for all players on the field. Keep in mind that frozen footballs don't go very far when kicked, although since TCF has a state-of-the-art artificial turf field (Field Turf), footing shouldn't suffer as much in the sub-freezing conditions as it would on a grass field. Fantasy owners in leagues that reward long field goals with extra points may want to look elsewhere for kickers this weekend.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Cincinnati split the 2015 season series with Pittsburgh, winning 16-10 during Week Eight but losing 20-33 during Week 14 - Cincinnati won at Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh won at Cincinnati. This game will go down in the Bengals' house on Saturday, January 9 at 8:15 P.M. ET.

Andy Dalton led the team to the mid-season win in Pittsburgh, with 23/38 for 231 yards passing, one TD and two interceptions thrown (with 6/4/0 rushing), finding A.J. Green for the lone TD pass (17 targets for 11/118/1 receiving for Green in that game). During the second affair in Cincinnati, Dalton broke his throwing-hand thumb part-way through the game (3/5 for 59 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception thrown) and has yet to return to the field of play. A.J. McCarron was a mixed bag off the bench, tossing 22/32 for 280 yards passing, two TDs and two interceptions thrown.

Over the next three weeks (15-17), McCarron compiled 54/83 for 552 yards passing, four TDs and zero interceptions thrown, finding A.J. Green for two of the TDs (17 for 10/128/2), Tyler Kroft (nine for 7/77/1) and Tyler Eifert (four for 4/51/1) for one apiece, and also peppering Marvin Jones with the most targets (18) and receptions, and yards receiving (12 for 160 yards receiving). McCarron has been steady and good enough to get the Bengals to the playoffs.

Over the past three weeks (15-17), the Steelers are 16th in the NFL averaging 21.2 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks; they've given out the seventh-most fantasy points allowed per game to opposing wide receivers (28.1); and have averaged the fourth-least fantasy points allowed per game to opposing tight ends (3.4 per game). Austin Davis managed 24/46 for 177 net yards passing, with zero TDs and two interceptions thrown last weekend (he took seven sacks for -63 yards), while the Steelers' pass D allowed 28/41 for 265 net yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions with one sack of Ryan Mallett for -9 yards two games ago. They've been so-so against journeymen-level quarterbacks.

This is a neutral matchup for McCarron and company.

Weather: Paul Brown Stadium expects a temperature of around 47 F on Saturday evening, with light rain forecast and winds around just 5 MPH at game time. If the forecast holds up, conditions shouldn't be a big concern for either team, but due to the precipitation threat (which could become heavier or sleet/snow if the temperature drops) fantasy owners should check a shorter-term forecast before picking playoff rosters this weekend.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Houston Texans Passing Offense vs Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Chiefs visited the Texans back in Week One, and came away victorious 27-20 - back then, Brian Hoyer took over from Ryan Mallett (now a Raven) - Hoyer threw 18/34 for 236 yards passing, one TD and one interception during the contest. DeAndre Hopkins (13 targets for 9/98/2 receiving) and Nate Washington (11 for 6/105/0) were the lead receivers during the season opener.

Entering Wild Card weekend, the Texans have coalesced around Hoyer as their starting quarterback, but they may have to do without Washington, who banged up his hip against the Jaguars in the season finale. Cecil Shorts III, though, is reportedly set to return to action after sitting out the final two games of the season with a hamstring injury, so there will be someone to complement Hopkins even if Washington is unavailable to play. Hoyer was a steady hand for the offense in Week 17 as he returned from his NFL concussion-protocol-related absence, throwing 25/40 for 249 yards passing, one TD and one interception against the Jaguars. He relied on DeAndre Hopkins (12 targets for 7/89/0 receiving) the most, as usual, but also threw at Jaelen Strong (seven for 6/56/0) a good bit, while finding Jonathan Grimes (five for 4/28/1) for the TD pass. Both Shorts and Washington are described as day-to-day as of midweek, so Strong may wind up the #2 wideout across from Hopkins when the Texans and Chiefs clash.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs made life tough on Derek Carr in the season finale, limiting him to 21/33 for 157 net yards passing, one TD and one interception thrown with six sacks taken for -37 yards - and that was without Justin Houston (lingering knee injury, practicing on Tuesday), who is expected back in the lineup for this contest in Houston so long as he doesn't have a setback in practices this upcoming week. Over the past four weeks, the Chiefs average just 16.5 fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks per game (fourth-least in the NFL); 14.6 fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers (least in the NFL); and 6.4 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing tight ends (13th-least in the NFL). To date, the Chiefs are ninth in the NFL averaging 231.1 net passing yards allowed per game, with 25 passing scores given out balanced by the second-best interception total in the NFL (22) and 47 sacks generated (fourth-most in the NFL so far this season).

This is a tough matchup for Hoyer and his compatriots in the passing phase of the game.

Weather: Inside NRG Stadium weather won't be a concern for either team. If conditions look threatening the retractable roof will be closed.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense at Houston Texans Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Chiefs visited the Texans back in Week One, and came away victorious 27-20 - back then, Alex Smith slung three TDs and zero interceptions (still the season-high for Smith regarding passing scores in a single game - he's been somewhere between zero and two TD passes in all other games during 2015) with 22/33 for 243 yards passing that day - Travis Kelce (six targets for 6/106/2) snagged two of the TD passes while now-on-IR Jamaal Charles handled the other TD (Jeremy Maclin started off 2015 with nine targets for 5/52/0 receiving at Houston).

Maclin missed practice on Tuesday due to his sore hip (he hurt it in the season finale, but returned to the game shortly after the injury). This is an item to keep an eye on during the practices later in the week in case Maclin further tweaks/injures the hip, or if he continues to be unable to practice. Alex Smith posted 14/24 for 156 yards passing, two TDs and two interceptions thrown against the hated Raiders last weekend (he also had 9/61/0 rushing) - Maclin (four targets for 3/54/1 receiving) and backup tight end Demetrius Harris (three for 1/15/1) handled the TD passes for him. Meanwhile Travis Kelce saw just two targets for 1/10/0 receiving, reminding us of his downside in the low-volume passing attack that K.C. employs.

The Texans' pass D has clamped down on opposing quarterbacks during the stretch run into the playoffs - over the past four weeks they are ranked third-least-generous in fantasy points allowed to opposing quarterbacks (14 per game on average); fourth-least generous to opposing wide receivers (16.7 fantasy points per game on average); but 11th-most-generous to opposing tight ends (8.2 fantasy points allowed per contest on average). Last week, Jacksonville managed 17/32 for 183 net yards passing, with zero TDs and two interceptions thrown while seeing eight sacks taken for -56 yards (J.J. Watt had three of those sacks). Two weeks ago Zach Mettenberger threw 27/51 for 227 net yards passing, one TD and one interception against the Texans. Houston is fifth in the NFL this season with 45 sacks - meanwhile K.C. is 26th in the NFL with 46 sacks allowed (and 78 other hits on Alex Smith). There will be a lot of pass pressure barreling down the gaps on Smith this Saturday.

This looks like a very tough matchup for Smith - downgrade it to a 'bad' matchup if Maclin isn't back in the mix by the end of the week.

Weather: Inside NRG Stadium weather won't be a concern for either team. If conditions look threatening the retractable roof will be closed.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense at Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Cincinnati split the 2015 season series with Pittsburgh, winning 16-10 during Week Eight but losing 20-33 during Week 14 - Cincinnati won at Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh won at Cincinnati. This game will go down in the Bengals' house on Saturday, January 9 at 8:15 P.M. ET.

Ben Roethlisberger has thrown one TD and four interceptions during his two games against the Bengals this year, tossing 28/45 for 262 yards passing, one TD and three interceptions during Week Eight followed up with 30/39 for 282 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception thrown at Cincinnati during Week 14. Antonio Brown (11 targets for 6/47/1 receiving Week Eight; 10 for 7/87/0 during Week 14) has been held under 100 yards receiving in both contests with the Bengals so far this year.

Entering the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Steelers have mounting issues at running back - DeAngelo Williams hurt his ankle at Cleveland last weekend, and looks very iffy to play on Saturday as of mid-week. If Williams can't go, then a committee of Fitzgerald Toussaint (18/42/0 rushing this season), Jordan Todman (4/22/0 rushing during 2015 regular season) and fullback Will Johnson (4/7/1 rushing with 2/16/0 receiving so far this season) will handle the hand-offs from Roethlisberger. If this committee is the option at running back on Saturday, look for the team to rely on Roethlisberger's passing arm even more than they usually do.

Speaking of Roethlisberger's passing arm, he's been up and down over the past three weeks, with a nearly-disastrous 24/34 for 215 yards passing, zero TDs and two interceptions thrown at Baltimore two weeks ago sandwiched by two games over 300 yards passing with three TDs and two interceptions thrown in each (Week 15 it was 40/55 for 380 yards against Denver; Week 17 he went 24/36 for 349 yards passing against the Browns). Antonio Brown (46 targets for 36/437/3 receiving) and Markus Wheaton (21 targets for 12/160/2) have been his main receivers during that time span. Martavis Bryant suffered a neck injury last weekend and only saw three targets for 1/0/0 receiving during the time he was on the field. Evidently, Roethlisberger is tired of Bryant's under-achieving of late - he said on Tuesday in reference to Bryant: 'You've got to get tough and you've got to make tough plays and you've got to make tough catches and you have to find ways to do everything you can to help this team,'. Heath Miller (four for 3/18/1) found pay dirt last week but that has been rare this year (81 targets for 60/535/2 receiving during regular season).

The Bengals' pass D has been hard to score on this year, allowing just 18 passing TDs over 16 games (second-least in the NFL behind Seattle's 14) and they are third in the NFL with 21 interceptions generated, adding 42 sacks (tied for ninth in the NFL) - they averaged 248.5 net passing yards allowed per game (13th in the league). Over the past three weeks, Cincinnati has averaged 17.7 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks (11th-least in the NFL); 20.8 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing wide receivers (in the middle of the NFL range at 19th in the league); and an average of 6.1 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing tight ends (19th in the NFL). Last weekend, Ryan Mallett managed 30/56 for 282 net yards passing, one TD and two interceptions thrown at Cincinnati (he took one sack for -10 yards). The Bengals allowed 277 net yards passing to Brock Osweiler on Monday Night Football two weeks ago despite sacking him three times for -22 yards - 27/39 for 277 net yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions was his tally against the Bengals when OT was complete. The Bengals have slipped in the yards-against department of late, but they are still tough to score on.

Given Roethlisberger's struggles against the Bengals and also their track record this season, we rank this a tough matchup for the Steelers.

Weather: Paul Brown Stadium expects a temperature of around 47 F on Saturday evening, with light rain forecast and winds around just 5 MPH at game time. If the forecast holds up, conditions shouldn't be a big concern for either team, but due to the precipitation threat (which could become heavier or sleet/snow if the temperature drops) fantasy owners should check a shorter-term forecast before picking playoff rosters this weekend.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

This is the first meeting between Green Bay and Washington this season - they didn't face off in pre- or regular season during 2015.

Kirk Cousins capped off a NFC East Championship by going bonkers against the Cowboys for as long was he was on the the field last week - he wound up with three TDs passes in the first quarter before sitting out the balance of the action (12/15 for 176 yards passing, three TDs and zero interceptions thrown). Cousins found Ryan Grant (four targets for 3/18/1 receiving), Pierre Garcon (four for 3/49/1) and Jamison Crowder (seven for 5/109/1) for the TDs - DeSean Jackson was active but didn't play in the game as the team was cautious with their first-stringers in a meaningless season finale (which Washington won anyway, 34-23, to go 9-7 on the year). Cousins has thrown 11 TDs vs. three interceptions over the final three games of regular season to close out the NFC East crown - he comes into this Wild Card round of the playoffs nuclear hot, friends.

The Packers are cold as the ice at Lambeau Field entering this contest, having lost the NFC North at home to Minnesota last week (only allowing 10/19 for 91 net yards passing, zero TDs and one interception to the Adrian-Peterson-centric Vikings' attack last week) following getting blown out in Arizona two games ago (allowing 19/28 for 260 net yards passing, two TDs and one interception, with two sacks generated for just -9 yards). The fault lies more with the ineffective offense than the defense, though. Over the past four games, the Packers averaged a mere 13.4 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks (second-least in the NFL); 20.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers (12th-least in the NFL); and a miniscule 1.9 fantasy points per game given up to opposing tight ends (least in the NFL during that four-week span).

This is a tough matchup between a hard-charging Washington offense and a solid defense that is unfortunately burdened with a faltering offense.

Weather: FedEx Field expects a temperature around 51 F on Sunday, with light drizzle falling, and wind around 10 MPH. As long as the rain doesn't intensify during the game, conditions shouldn't impact unduly on either team during this contest.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Vikings were crushed 7-38 vs. Seattle back in Week 13 - the only Minnesota TD of the game came on a 101 yard kick return by Cordarrelle Patterson. The Vikings had 31 total yards rushing and 94 net passing yards (four sacks for -24 yards were taken by Teddy Bridgewater, who threw 17/28 for 118 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception) at the end of the day, for a grand total of 125 yards from scrimmage (just nine first downs, and 24:50 time of possession by the offense). There isn't anything nice to say about how the Minnesota offense played on December 6, 2015.

Bridgewater didn't need to air it out in order to beat Green Bay's floundering offense last week, so he took a back seat to the rushing attack - at the end of the game in Green Bay, Bridgewater had on a NFC North Champions hat and had 10/19 for 99 yards passing, zero TDs and one interception thrown to his credit, with three sacks taken for -8 yards. Given the drought of receptions, nobody on the team had over 33 yards receiving - Jerick McKinnon handled four targets for 3/33/0 receiving to lead the team - Stefon Diggs wound up with two targets for 1/8/0 receiving, while Kyle Rudolph didn't catch a football (he only saw one target). There is some more bad news here, too - #2 tight end Rhett Ellison tore a patellar tendon in a knee during the game and has been lost for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Seahawks stuffed Arizona 36-6 in Arizona, allowing 20/43 for 205 net yards passing, one TD and three interceptions thrown (with two sacks generated for -8 yards). Two weeks ago, Case Keenum had 14/23 for 103 net yards passing, one TD and zero interceptions thrown at Seattle. Over the past four weeks, the Seahawks average just 11.6 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing quarterbacks (least in the NFL); 15.1 fantasy points allowed per game to opposing wide receivers (second-least in the league); and 3.6 fantasy points allowed to opposing tight ends per game (fifth-least in the NFL). These guys mean business, folks.

Bridgewater is not throwing the ball regularly and he's not doing a lot with the ball when he is asked to toss it downfield - this looks like a bad matchup for the sophomore quarterback and his receivers.

Weather: TCF Bank Stadium expects a temperature around 0 F on Sunday, with winds around 14 MPH. In cold and windy conditions, the passing and kicking games are more problematic than usual, and the football becomes hard and slick, causing ball-handling issues for all players on the field. Keep in mind that frozen footballs don't go very far when kicked, although since TCF has a state-of-the-art artificial turf field (Field Turf), footing shouldn't suffer as much in the sub-freezing conditions as it would on a grass field. Fantasy owners in leagues that reward long field goals with extra points may want to look elsewhere for kickers this weekend.

Please refer to the NFL's injury report for the latest injury news regarding your players.