Week 19 Passing Matchups

by Justin Howe, Devin Knotts, and Keith Roberts, Exclusive to Footballguys.com

Jump to Rushing Matchups

Great Matchups:
Good Matchups: [IND] [NO]
Neutral Matchups: [DAL] [KC] [LAC] [LAR]
Tough Matchups: [NE] [PHI]
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 Tom Brady 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.


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Andrew Luck didn’t need a big game in last week’s first-round win over the Texans due to how successful the Colts were on the ground. They will hope for much of the same this week, but if any quarterback in the league has a chance at keeping up with Patrick Mahomes, it will be Luck. He finished the regular season second to Mahomes in passing touchdowns (39) and fifth in passing yards per game (287). The Colts passing offense as a whole has shown to have a very high ceiling with Luck at the helm, but an equally high floor as he has failed to throw for multiple touchdowns just three times this season. Injuries have mounted amongst Luck’s weapons though, with his top two receiving options both battling separate injuries. T.Y. Hilton has been missing practice for multiple weeks with an ankle injury that has kept him from being 100 percent, but he still managed to lead the team in targets, receptions and receiving yards in last week’s game. Eric Ebron has been dealing with a few ailments late in the season and has been held out of some practice this week due to what has been noted as a hip injury. Both are expected to play, but just may be less than full strength. The emergence of Dontrelle Inman has been huge for this offense though, as they have lacked a consistent second option at receiver behind Hilton. Inman has at least four receptions, 45 yards, and a touchdown in three straight games with one catch of 20 or more yards in each outing. The Colts have been calling plays that favor Inman getting open, and there is no reason to think they will stop given the matchup advantage he could have this week.

The Chiefs have been one of the softest defenses in the league to opposing quarterbacks, driven by some key talent gaps along with pass-heavy game scripts created by their own high flying offense. Quarterbacks facing the Chiefs have scored the fifth-most fantasy points per game (21.3), averaging nearly two passing touchdowns per game with a league-leading 40 pass attempts and 295 passing yards per game. Take out Derek Carr in Week 17, and quarterbacks threw for multiple touchdowns in every week since Week 11 when facing Kansas City. This defense does have some notable strengths, however, starting with their elite pass-rush that led the league in sacks with 52. Defensive tackle Chris Jones and the outside linebacker duo of Dee Ford and Justin Houston have truly carried this defense despite poor play from their inside linebackers and safeties. The Colts offensive line will be tough to penetrate here though as this is a mismatch of a matchup with the top pass rushing attack facing the league’s stingiest offensive line, giving up a league-low 18 sacks in the regular season with zero allowed last week. The Chiefs secondary has actually been mildly efficient on a per pass attempt basis, particularly against wide receivers as Kendall Fuller can lock down a slot receiver while Steven Nelson has been decent on the outside. T.Y. Hilton should still have the advantage here though, as he looks to draw coverage from rookie Charvarius Ward, their worst cornerback, on most snaps. The other advantage for the Colts will be at the tight end position with Eric Ebron drawing coverage from safety Daniel Sorensen. The Chiefs have given up the league’s second-most receiving yards per game (67) to tight ends this season, and touchdowns have come in bunches over the second half with tight ends scoring nine times in the last 10 games to close out the season--including three multi-touchdown games by tight ends over that span. Considering the red zone upside from Ebron, this is a matchup he should be looking forward to despite the recent return of top safety Eric Berry, who shouldn’t man up on Ebron very often.

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


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Drew Brees remains the NFL’s most accurate passer, and he’s arguably coming off the most efficient season of his illustrious 18-year career. Brees set career highs in completion percentage and adjusted net yards per attempt, while posting his best touchdown rate since 2011. But his fantasy usefulness has truly been a tale of two seasons: one with Mark Ingram suspended, and another with the Saints winning easily and deeply committed to the run. Through the first 4 Ingram-less weeks, Brees averaged 40 attempts and 324 yards, including lines of 439 and 396. But over the next 11, those marks dipped to 30 attempts and 245 yards, and he topped 350 only twice. Volume was the main culprit, of course, as the Saints consistently controlled game flow. But Brees also suffered from a lack of downfield dynamism; his 11.0 yards per completion was actually one of the lowest he’s ever managed. Michael Thomas spent 2018 as a certified dominator, absorbing 28% of Saints targets and catching 85% of them, but he doesn’t stretch defenses vertically, and this group severely lacks downfield playmakers. Ted Ginn is a marginal player at this point, and exciting rookie Tre’quan Smith managed just six receptions over the final five games. Typically, this attack relies on the steady route-running of Thomas and the occasional explosiveness of Smith and Alvin Kamara to generate chunk plays. Of course, if the Saints are able to control the flow of this game, it won’t even be tasked with that much. Brees is still efficient enough to create a big fantasy day with middling volume, but this is no longer a matchup-proof unit that projects well just by stepping onto the field.

The Eagles pass defense has been shaky all year, representing probably the starkest difference between the 2017 and 2018 versions of this team. Juggling cornerbacks all season, they closed the regular season 30th in yardage allowed (288.7 per game) and just 25th in interceptions (10). They’ve allowed 12 of their 17 opponents to top 265 yards, including Drew Brees, who posted an easy 363 and 4 touchdowns in their Week 11 meeting. Still, this unit has performed better than those raw yardage numbers suggest. Mired in a ton of close games, their real statistical downfall was volume, as only two teams faced more air attempts (39 per game). Buoyed by a dominant pass rush, this patchwork group gave up a respectable 6.4 net yards per attempt (13th in the league) to all of that volume. Fletcher Cox earned another easy All-Pro bid, racking up 10.5 sacks from the interior, while a dynamic trio of proven studs consistently bends the edges. That doesn’t fully hide the deficiencies in this secondary, of course, and the Eagles are definitely beatable down the field. All in all, this is a relatively tasty fantasy matchup when a shootout is projected. Brees routinely picked apart this patchwork secondary in Week 11, and he was far from the only passer to do so. But on a snap-by-snap basis, this unit is still no pushover. Even quick-armed, well-protected passers like Brees are on notice against this aggressive, dynamic group.

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


Dallas Cowboys Passing Offense at Los Angeles Rams Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Cowboys would generally love to ride Ezekiel Elliott to smothering, game-shortening wins. But depending on game flow, that’s not always an option, and at times they turn to Dak Prescott to succeed with his arm. And for the most part, Prescott has been up to the task this season. He’s completed a solid 67.6% of his throws, boosting his yards-per-attempt to a respectable 7.4. That said, Prescott remains a work in progress as a passer, still struggling to connect consistently on tough downfield throws. To be fair, he doesn’t try for many - last week, he threw deep (15 yards or more) on only 3 of his 33 attempts. From a fantasy standpoint, his typical output (242 yards and 1.4 touchdowns a game) isn’t very appealing, even in complement with his rushing production. He simply doesn’t throw to much dynamic talent beyond the up-and-down Amari Cooper. Rookie Michael Gallup has been little more than a lightly-used deep threat, and Allen Hurns’ gruesome injury keeps this a weak, shallow unit. Cooper represents virtually all of the fantasy upside here, though there’s also a rock-hard floor in place for the inconsistent wideout. He was great last week, catching 7 of 9 targets for 106 yards, but managed just 83 over the previous 3 games. Over 10 games as a Cowboy, he’s topped 75 yards 5 times, but landed below 40 in 4 others. With so few dynamic receiving threats in place, Cooper’s matchups with Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib will likely tell the tale of this entire unit’s fantasy week. Peters and Talib have been subpar this year, so if Cooper is able to win on just a few downfield routes, he and Prescott could make for a week-winning fantasy stack.

Thanks to a rash of key injuries, the Rams’ star-studded pass has defense disappointed majorly for most of 2018. After adding the likes of Ndamukong Suh, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib, they wound up the league’s 11th-worst unit in terms of net yards per pass attempt. Along the way, they gave up 31 touchdowns (eighth-worst) and rarely posed a real challenge against strong passers. On the year, 8 of 16 opposing quarterbacks topped 270 yards in the matchup, and 8 threw multiple touchdowns. They’ve settled down statistically of late, giving up just 211 yards a game over the last five, but it’s been a hollow improvement. They accomplished that by shutting down the likes of Matthew Stafford, Mitchell Trubisky, and Josh Rosen, but still giving up big days to Nick Foles and Nick Mullens. Talib’s return from injury has helped the team, but Peters and Sam Shields have rounded out a shaky cornerback group, one that’s been routinely beaten down the field. Slot specialist Nickell Robey-Coleman has been great on the inside, but receivers like Michael Thomas (12 for 211 and 1 touchdown), Tyreek Hill (10 for 215 and 2), and Alshon Jeffery (8 for 160) have enjoyed massive days on the boundaries. The pass rush has been a concern as well: the Rams finished with a respectable 41 sacks, but exactly half came from Aaron Donald, and no one else topped 4.5. This is an electric group, but it hasn’t been a reliable or prohibitive one virtually all year. The Cowboys’ Amari Cooper (and even rookie deep threat Michael Gallup) could be primed for a run of big plays in their one-on-one matchups with Peters and Talib. Talib will be the x-factor for the Cowboys and will be relied upon to have his best games during the playoffs.

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


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Patrick Mahomes will make his postseason debut leading what has been the most explosive offense in football this season. Mahomes finished the regular season with a league-leading 50 passing touchdowns--11 more than the next closest player. He led this passing offense to a league-leading average of 8.8 passing yards per attempt and the second-most passing yards per game (310). The Chiefs scored more points per game than any other offense in football (35.3) and ruled defenses in almost all aspects of the game, ranking second in third-down offense (47% conversion rate), third in fourth-down offense (80% conversion rate), and second in red zone scoring percentage (71.8). He had great protection from his offensive line to take just the fifth-fewest sacks in the league (26) and did a great job taking care of the football to throw just 12 interceptions. The weapons in this offense are unmatched with the league’s top fantasy tight end, Travis Kelce, along with one of the most explosive receivers in football, Tyreek Hill. Hill, in particular, will be an integral piece to the Chiefs chances of success this week. He had a few down games to close out the season with just one touchdown in his last five games, but Hill still managed to finish the year with six games of over 100 receiving yards and a league-leading 27 receptions of 20 or more yards. Demarcus Robinson has been hot despite low volume to close out the season as he finished with a touchdown in three straight games, while Chris Conley has also seen more targets late in the year but with unpredictable, low-floor results. Neither may see much action if Sammy Watkins manages to return to the field though, as Watkins saw his first practice in over a month this week and carries a questionable tag coming into this Divisional Round matchup.

The Colts secondary truly has put forth a team effort to be where they are, as this group simply plays well as a unit versus any single playmaker just dominating the field. Their defensive backs have all been good, but not great, with safety Malik Hooker shaping up to be their top playmaking defensive back. Hooker did suffer a foot injury last week but returned to the game to play through it. He has no injury designation coming into this week’s game. Safety Mike Mitchell also injured his calf in last week’s game and did not return, coming into this week’s game as questionable. Cornerbacks Pierre Desir and Quincy Wilson have played well on the outsides while Kenny Moore II has been serviceable out of the slot with the exception of getting torched underneath by Keke Coutee last week. All three cornerbacks should put up a solid fight against the Chiefs receivers. Travis Kelce, on the other hand, should have a favorable matchup with strong safety Clayton Geathers expected to cover him. Geathers has contributed to the Colts giving up the league’s most receiving yards and second-most fantasy points per game to tight ends during the regular season. The Colts allowed a touchdown in back-to-back games to close out the season and gave up at least four receptions to a tight end in nine games with eight tight ends finishing with over 50 receiving yards. Elite tight ends such as Zach Ertz and Rob Gronkowski both finished with at least six receptions and over 70 yards, setting a nice floor for a player like Kelce here.

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


Los Angeles Chargers Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Philip Rivers had a forgettable outing in his playoff win last week as the Chargers offense struggled to maintain drives against a strong Ravens defense. The ground game never got going while Chargers receivers had a tough time getting open against tough coverage. The Ravens effectively shut down Rivers in both meetings last season, but those rough outings were few and far between throughout the regular season. Rivers had one of the best regular seasons of his career and has consistently played well on the road leading the Chargers to an 8-1 road record. Keenan Allen should continue to be his top target out of the slot while Mike Williams should draw the best matchup amongst these wide receivers. Williams was targeted deep a couple times last week and has been the best big-play threat on this offense, finishing the regular season with the highest touchdown-to-target percentage amongst receivers with at least 50 targets. Tight end Hunter Henry could also make his season debut this week after being activated from the injured reserve list this week. Henry has been sidelined all season with a knee injury, but would serve as an upgrade at the tight end position to compliment Antonio Gates. With their top running back banged up, this week could be much more pass-heavy with Henry’s return very well-timed.

The Patriots defense has been impressive against the pass for most of this season. They got off to a slow start with some forgettable outings leading up to Week 8, but since then, this defense has yet to allow a quarterback to pass for more than 276 yards in a game with quarterbacks scoring the 10th-fewest fantasy points per game (16.2) against them. The man-heavy coverage approach has worked well, for the most part, with Stefon Gilmore excelling as one of the top cornerbacks in football this season. Gilmore finished the regular season owning the highest forced incompletion percentage at his position--an accolade any cornerback would strive for. Jason McCourty has also been a tough matchup out the slot and should cause plenty of headaches for Keenan Allen. With Gilmore expected to cover Tyrell Williams in three-receiver sets, it may be Mike Williams with the best matchup against rookie J.C. Jackson. When the Chargers line up in 12 personnel, however, Gilmore’s focus should be on Mike Williams. This secondary has been up and down against tight ends, but overall, they have struggled against any reasonably talented tight end they have faced--including the likes of Trey Burton, Travis Kelce, Eric Ebron, and even allowing a touchdown to Vance McDonald in Week 15. Hunter Henry’s return could be well-timed against this unit that has given up some big games to the position.

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


Los Angeles Rams Passing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ever since the Rams’ dizzying Week 11 showdown with Kansas City, a bit of luster has come off their passing attack. It’s a star-studded unit, featuring a pair of explosive all-over-the-field receivers and a dual-threat back. But they’ve stumbled noticeably over the season’s final month, and it’s tough to project their effectiveness in this matchup. Quarterback Jared Goff took an overall step forward in 2018 but hasn’t looked himself down the stretch. After the Kansas City game, he devolved into a handful of turnover-filled games and averaged just 228 yards. Losing his most trusted receiver, slot man Cooper Kupp certainly didn’t help matters. Goff is a dynamic young passer, gifted with a live arm and a playmaking mentality, and there’s still plenty of ceiling at play here. Robert Woods remains an underrated weapon both inside and out - he shredded his career highs in catches (86), yards (1,219), and touchdowns (6) this year. And Brandin Cooks has been as advertised, topping 60 yards in 11 of 16 games. Big-bodied Josh Reynolds has worked his way into an expanded playmaking role, while Todd Gurley has topped 30 yards out of the backfield in 6 of his last 7 games. To drive them all to success Saturday, Goff will need to settle down and exhibit more poise. He does work behind arguably the league’s best front line, which shouldn’t have much trouble against the Cowboys’ hit-or-miss pass rush. The key for Goff will be finding openings downfield while top Dallas cornerback Byron Jones patrols the boundaries. Woods could spend the day as Goff’s clear-cut top target on the inside.

The Cowboys pass defense were extremely inconsistent throughout the regular season, trading off dominant performances with vulnerable ones. They wound up ranked 15th league-wide in net yards per attempt, and 13th in raw yardage allowed. But they closed out the regular season in rough fashion, allowing 300-yard games to both Jameis Winston and Eli Manning. They weren’t tested much last week, with Russell Wilson throwing only 27 passes, but gave up solid efficiency through the air (8.6 yards per attempt). All told, this is not a particularly easy unit to assess for fantasy purposes. Top cornerback Byron Jones has been a definite bright spot; his dominant coverage has been huge in matchups with Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton, and Michael Thomas. But his teammates in the secondary have been up-and-down at best throughout 2018, and the Rams’ supplemental weapons will be counted on to win their matchups away from Jones. Chidobe Awuzie has been beaten repeatedly on the other side, while slot man Anthony Brown has given up a handful of strong performances of late.

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


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Los Angeles Chargers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Tom Brady had a rocky 2018 season by his standards, finishing with his lowest touchdown total and the highest number of interceptions in a full 16-game season since 2013. He has been in particularly rough form to close out the season. Aside from an encouraging four-touchdown performance in Week 17 against the Jets, Brady had managed to pass for multiple touchdowns just twice from Weeks 8 to 16. Touchdowns aside, however, and Brady has still managed to post solid numbers in 2018--including an average of 272 passing yards per game and 7.7 passing yards per attempt, ranking him within the top-10 in both categories. The rest of this Patriots passing offense has been wildly inconsistent. Rob Gronkowski missed over four games worth of time due to injuries and finished with more than three receptions in just one of his final eight games to close out the season. His three touchdowns match a career-low, and his 52.5 receiving yards per game is his second-lowest mark only to his rookie season in 2010. Julian Edelman has been the most consistent receiving option with touchdowns in three of his last four games of the season with 69 or more yards in all four games, but Chris Hogan, on the other hand, has finished with a zero stat line in four of his last eight games to close out the year. James White remains a key weapon out of the backfield, but his workload has become game-script dependent with Sony Michel seeing most snaps if the Patriots are leading.

The Chargers took full advantage of facing a rookie quarterback last week as they held Lamar Jackson to just 25 passing yards and a zero passer rating with five sacks through three quarters before Jackson nearly mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter. This week, they face a near polar-opposite situation against one of the league’s most seasoned quarterbacks in Tom Brady. This defense is loaded with talent to defend against the pass, starting with a stacked secondary with the ability to lock down all areas of the field. Desmond King II has been one of the league’s best slot cornerback and should give Julian Edelman a tough time, while Derwin James, as a rookie, was one of the best safeties in the football. Casey Hayward was a top coverage cornerback last season and continued that high-level play this season despite a slight drop-off from 2017. Chris Hogan is expected to see shadow coverage from Hayward, giving him a tough matchup as well. The only possible weak link to be noted here would be opposite Hayward with Michael Davis, but even he has been above average at times with an elevated target load due to the lock-down play from King and Hayward. Phillip Dorsett should see most snaps against Davis in what is a neutral, at best, individual matchup. Rob Gronkowski will also draw tough coverage from Derwin James, and Tom Brady should have plenty of pressure in his face from this defense that racked up seven sacks last week. Led by the edge rushing duo of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, the Chargers front seven can be very tough to deal and could be a big factor against a Tom Brady, who has been noticeably hampered by a strong pass-rush in the past.

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


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Nick Foles has recovered from a horrendous Week 1 showing to again prove a formidable postseason quarterback. In the Week 1 opener, he completed just 50% of his throws and needed 34 attempts to amass just 117 yards. In 4 starts since, he’s hit on 76% and averaged 8.0 yards per pass. He topped 270 in 3 of those outings, including a mammoth 471-yard, 4-touchdown Week 16 that kept the Eagles’ season alive. After a clutch Wild Card game that saw him throw the game-winning score, Foles again pushes forward into postseason lore. He’s a volatile passer, but a gunslinger who’s flush with playmaking talent around him. Over these last 3 games, Alshon Jeffery has produced a stunning 14.2 yards per target, including 5 catches of 25 yards or more. And there’s plenty of run-after-catch dynamism in Nelson Agholor, Golden Tate, and the explosive tight end duo of Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert. Foles also appreciates the talents of Darren Sproles, who’s averaged 28 snaps with Foles under center, as an underneath receiver. Sproles is 35, but still a savvy and electrifying receiver, even when sent down the field. All told, Foles and this passing game continue to carry high fantasy ceilings and floors as they advance along. He lacks Carson Wentz’s natural arm talent but boasts the big-play instincts to produce majorly when given the chance. He faces a tough challenge this week against the Saints’ aggressive secondary but is clearly capable of winning downfield battles.

The Saints pass defense has improved by leaps and bounds over the second half of 2018, eventually coming to resemble the unit that dominated last season. After giving up 325 yards and 2.3 touchdowns a game over their first eight, they allowed just 246 and 1.4 to close the season. The pass rush, led by edge dominator Cameron Jordan and interior breakout Sheldon Rankins, has been consistently strong throughout the year. The big midseason shift came in the coverage unit, which tightened once Marshon Lattimore snapped out of a bad funk and Eli Apple was brought in via trade. Lattimore was Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 as a lethal playmaker, and after a rough sophomore start, he appears somewhat back to form. Apple replaced a struggling Ken Crawley in Week 8, and while he also struggled with consistency, he proved a much more stable option opposite Lattimore. There are still lapses here from time to time, of course. This is an aggressive group, one that prioritizes making plays on the ball - sometimes at the expense of long completions. Slot cornerback P.J. Williams, in particular, remains burnable for big plays inside. But in general, this is a tricky unit for opponents to face. Openings can be found, but their youthful dynamism and gambling approach can stymie quarterbacks into shaky days. Nick Foles won’t be afraid to test them down the field, but he’ll need to be pinpoint to keep errant throws away from Lattimore, Apple, and company.

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