Week 19 Passing Matchups

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

Jump to Rushing Matchups

Great Matchups: [KC]
Good Matchups: [BAL] [GB]
Neutral Matchups: [SEA] [SF]
Tough Matchups: [HOU]
Bad Matchups: [MIN] [TEN]


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.


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

Of late, Patrick Mahomes hasn’t produced at the world-beating statistical level he did throughout 2018 (and early 2019). Still a bit limited by a serious ankle injury, Mahomes has topped 300 yards in just 2 of 7 games since his return to the lineup. With his downfield game compromised, if only a bit, he’s underwhelmed with 7.6 yards per attempt and just 11 touchdowns over that span. Of course, a limited Mahomes is still lethal both in and out of the pocket, and his dazzling receiving corps is always capable of pulling him to his ceiling. Tyreek Hill has been relatively quiet over the past 2 months, but he’s also been a remarkably consistent producer, topping 50 yards in all 10 of his full games. That’s a strong fantasy floor when considering the dynamic ceiling he always boasts. Travis Kelce has paced this attack since Mahomes’ return, averaging 7 catches for 80 yards. He remains a stark mismatch in any situation, and it’s hard to find an answer for his skills in the Texans’ defensive arsenal. Sammy Watkins leads a group of low-volume, high-upside specialists that are exceptionally hard to project. One could easily argue that running back Damien Williams, with seven receptions and a touchdown over the past two games, is actually the third-most predictable fantasy option in this attack.

The Texans have spent most of the season flailing badly against opposing pass games. They’ve given up 300+ yards in 8 of their 17 games, with 11 of their opponents throwing multiple touchdowns. And it hasn’t just been a product of tough competition, with big lines coming from the likes of Gardner Minshew (309 yards), Jacoby Brissett (326 and 4 scores), and Drew Lock (309 and 3). At least this desperate unit got back top cornerback Bradley Roby last week; he was instrumental in keeping Josh Allen’s top target, John Brown, mostly in check (50 yards on 8 targets). Roby has been a shutdown guy all season, but can’t do it alone, and fellow starter Jonathan Joseph looks likely to sit again Sunday with his hamstring injury. Gareon Conley and Lonnie Johnson have been atrocious in his place, which makes for a rough outlook against Kansas City’s batch of downfield burners. And they’re an abject mess in the slot, where Vernon Hargreaves remains a liability and the safeties offer little help. They don’t get much from the pass rush, either, which ranked 31st on the season in pressure rate. Overall, this looks like an ideal ramp-up spot for a rested Patrick Mahomes and his wide array of weaponry. They project to win a ton of downfield battles, and it’s hard to find an answer for tight end Travis Kelce among this thinned-out secondary.

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


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Lamar Jackson is the league’s runaway MVP on the heels of a truly historic season. And while he isn’t throwing with much volume (just 23 attempts a game since Week 7), he’s doing more than enough through the air to complement his rushing numbers. Coordinator Greg Roman doesn’t ask Jackson to do much through the air, but gives him plenty of opportunity to make hay off of play action and the option game. Jackson’s creativity and instinct allow him to find Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and his handful of role players with open field in front of them. Jackson has posted an unsustainable 9.0% touchdown rate, but that’s not quite so outlandish when considering just how disarming this offense can be. Unfortunately, none of Jackson’s receivers beyond Andrews (50+ yards and a touchdown in 5 of his last 7 games) are projectable enough to rely upon for fantasy purposes. But those playing Jackson only need a modest amount of air production for success, and everything beyond that makes for a fantastic bonus.

The Titans pass defense was the toast of Tennessee last weekend against Tom Brady, but sits below-average across the board by the numbers. They do boast a pair of unfortunate Pro Bowl snubs in slot cornerback Logan Ryan and safety Kevin Byard, who do great work up the seams and over the middle. But they’ve struggled badly on the outside, where cornerback Adoree Jackson has been missed - he’ll likely return this week - and where Trumaine Brock and Tye Smith have been exploited frequently in his place. Even with Jackson on the field, though, this group was shredded down the stretch by D.J. Moore (7 catches for 101 yards), Tyreek Hill (11 for 157 and a touchdown), and Zach Pascal (7 for 109). Saddled with a shaky linebacking crew, they’ve also been beaten often by running backs and tight ends underneath. Overall, this isn’t a particularly bad unit, but they’ll need to scheme just right to cut off the playmaking Ravens. Perhaps Ryan and Byard will team up to contain dynamic tight end Mark Andrews, keeping the burden off the linebackers. But without much pass rush to speak of (25th in pressure rate), they’ll need to hit home with some creative blitzing to keep Lamar Jackson from making early plays and building momentum.

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


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Green Bay Packers' passing game is perhaps one of the more overrated units in the NFL, as they sport mediocre yardage, scoring, and efficiency numbers. However, given the reputation of quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his ability to avoid turning the ball over (just four interceptions on the season, which ranks first in the league) have helped this unit avoid intense scrutiny this season. On the year, Aaron Rodgers' 26 passing touchdowns and 6.1 net yards per pass attempt both rank as pedestrian totals through the air, but he has supported one of the league's premier fantasy wide receivers. Davante Adams tallied over 11.5 targets per game across the last 5 games of the season, hauling in nearly 8 passes per game and 4 total touchdowns. Aside from Allen Lazard, who commanded just over five targets per game throughout the Packers' final five outings, no other Green Bay wide receiver commanded a double-digit target share down the stretch. Green Bay's offensive line is one of the league's strongest units, and they should hold their own in the trenches against Seattle's mediocre pass-rush this weekend, affording the opportunity for the Packers' average passing attack to excel when it matters the most.

Seattle's pass defense is a mediocre unit overall whose struggles have been masked by flukey touchdown totals allowed through the air, coupled with an impressive ability to generate interceptions. The Seahawks allowed the 6th-most passing yards of any team in the NFL this season, and their 6.7 net yards per attempt allowed ranks 7th worst in the league as well. Along the defensive line, Jadeveon Clowney has been the team's lone pass-rusher to make a consistent and positive impact. Opposite Clowney, Ezekiel Ansah has been wildly disappointing this season, but he picked up an injury last weekend that has his status for the Divisional round in doubt. If Ansah cannot suit up, expect second-year edge rusher Rasheem Green to start in his place. Green's production to this point in his career has been mediocre at best, and he offers very little support for Clowney overall. Then, at linebacker, Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright have been horrific against the pass in 2019. Lastly, in the secondary, Shaquill Griffin and Quandre Diggs are the team's biggest difference-makers against the pass. Griffin is an emerging star at the cornerback position, and he consistently locks-down his half of the field. Diggs, a midseason acquisition from Detroit, has been an incredible asset for the Seahawks when healthy this year. Other than these two, however, Seattle's secondary is porous, with cornerback Tre Flowers grading as one of the league's weakest players in coverage opposite Griffin. In total, this unit will have its hands full against Green Bay's average passing attack. Should the Packers turn to Aaron Rodgers to win this game, he will face a path of little resistance against the Seahawks' weak pass defense.

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


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Seattle Seahawks' passing attack is inarguably one of the most underutilized units in the NFL. The Seahawks, led by Russell Wilson, field one of the lowest-volume yet most-efficient passing games in the league this season. Down the stretch, especially in close games, the Seahawks have relied more heavily upon Wilson, with him attempting 40 passes in the team's Week 17 loss to the 49ers, his highest tally since Week 9. Through the air, Wilson heavily favors his top two recievers: D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Metcalf's role has grown recently, with 21 targets across his last 2 games, including a 7-catch, 120-yard, and 1-score performance to clinch a victory last week in the team's wildcard matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. Lockett has been the more consistent of the two, registering at least seven targets in each of his last four games after recovering from a midseason injury and illness that suppressed his production in late-November and early-December. Aside from these two, Seattle's receiving weapons are unenticing for any fantasy purposes, and the team's offensive line does Russell Wilson no favors. As a whole, Seattle's front-5 grades as the 30th-best unit in the NFL, according to Matt Bitonti. Russell Wilson will likely need to produce another heroic performance to best Green Bay this weekend.

The Green Bay Packers' pass defense is loaded with talent up-front and in the secondary, with a relative void of pass-defending talent at the linebacker position. On the season, the Packers ranked as a middle-of-the-pack unit in total passing attempts defended, total passing yardage and passing efficiency allowed; however, their unsustainable ability to prevent scores through the air while generating frequent turnovers salvaged respectable numbers. Upon further investigation, the talent of this unit resembles that of a top-end pass defense rather than the mediocre unit they played like this year. Along the defensive line, Preston Smith and Za'Darius Smith registered 12 and 13.5 sacks, respectively, off the edge. Kenny Clark also shined as one of the league's stronger pass-rushers along the interior with six sacks to his name as well. At linebacker, Blake Martinez rarely leaves the field, leading to some respectable pass-defending totals, but he grades as merely an average pass-defender, as do most of the rest of the Packers' options at the positions. In the secondary, Jaire Alexander and Tramon Williams have both impressed at the cornerback position, while Adrian Amos stands out as one of the league's better coverage safeties. Green Bay's defensive backfield, as a whole, is one of the deepest and most talented in the league, which leads one to believe this defense is poised to give opposing passing attacks fits throughout the playoffs. In total, Seattle's offensive line could be in for a long day at the office this weekend attempting to stifle Green Bay's top-flight pass-rush, leading to a difficult matchup for Russell Wilson and the rest of the team's passing attack.

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


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The San Francisco 49ers relied far more heavily on their rushing attack than their passing attack to reach this point in the season. As a whole, the 49ers rank as one of the lowest-volume passing offenses in the league, leading to below-average yardage and touchdown totals. However, when Kyle Shannahan has elected to air it out, the unit's efficiency is top-tier, with a mark of 7.4 net yards per attempt, which ranks 3rd in the NFL. Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has been erratic this season, with numerous flashes of his tremendous upside, along with nine outings of with zero or one touchdown passes. In his playoff debut, Garoppolo will continue to rely upon his elite tight end, George Kittle, who posted one of the most impressive seasons for a player at his position to date. Kittle's volume is secure, with at least seven targets in each of his last four games. Out wide, Emmanuel Sanders and Deebo Samuel stand out as the top two options for Garoppolo; however, each player's weekly volume is inconsistent. Overall, Garoppolo is equipped with the requisite weapons to excel under the bright lights this weekend. Still, aside from George Kittle, it is difficult to predict who will emerge as the offense's most productive pass-catcher in the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Minnesota Vikings pass defense came up massive for the team in their upset win over the New Orleans Saints last weekend. They have been forced to defend an abnormally high number of pass attempts this season; however, their efficiency numbers defending the pass have been impressive. This defense fields top-end talents at all three levels. Starting in the trenches, Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen make up an elite edge-rushing duo that has wreaked havoc on opposing quarterbacks all season long, combining for 22.5 sacks this year. Then, at the second level, Eric Kendricks is arguably the league's most well-rounded linebacker, grading as an elite pass and run defender. Then, in the secondary, Minnesota's pair of starting safeties is likely the best in the NFL. Anthony Harris and Harrison Smith are both elite pass-defenders, with Harris tied for the league lead with six interceptions, while Smith has three to his name as well. The only weakness of this unit, which has left them susceptible to allowing big receiving days to top-end receivers, is the cornerback unit. Both Trae Waynes and Xavier Rhodes have struggled mightily this season. However, this weakness has been largely masked by the top-end production elsewhere in the unit. Overall, Jimmy Garoppolo and the 49ers offense will have their work cut out for themselves trying to carve up Minnesota's defense through the air this weekend.

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


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

Deshaun Watson enters Round 2 in a bit of a skid, averaging just 225 yards over his last 3 games. But there’s no denying the boost to his production with Will Fuller in the lineup, and the oft-injured wideout looks on track to return Sunday. Fuller may be limited after missing most of the last three weeks with a groin issue, but his explosive presence always opens things up for Watson, DeAndre Hopkins, and the rest of this attack. Over Fuller’s 9 full games, Watson’s averages boost to 269 yards (8.5 per attempt) and 2.1 touchdowns. Fuller isn’t the most consistent producer, but he showed his capabilities with massive performances against the Falcons (14 for 217 yards and 3 scores) and Colts (7 for 140). Of course, Hopkins virtually always sets the pace for this passing game. He’s drawn 8+ targets in 15 of his 16 games this season, and he’s only been held below 60 yards once since Week 11. Last week, he got the better of star cornerback Tre’Davious White for a handful of splash plays down the stretch. Hopkins doesn’t produce as many huge plays as Fuller, but he’s much more predictable, and his red-zone prowess gives him a similar fantasy ceiling. Beyond them, production is tough to pin down. Kenny Stills only sees around 30 snaps a game when both Hopkins and Fuller are healthy, and the tight ends are little more than novelty acts. All told, this attack goes as its top two wideouts go, and both are always capable of big weeks (even simultaneously). They’ve brought huge mismatches against far better secondaries than what Kansas City offers.

The Kansas City pass defense is rarely thought of as a strong unit, but it’s actually been one of the league’s stingiest based on volume. Much of the production they allow comes as the result of game flow as teams look to keep up with Patrick Mahomes and company. Over the past 8 weeks, they’ve given up just 6.1 yards per attempt and 224 a game, with just 10 touchdowns through the air. Cornerbacks Charvarius Ward and Bashaud Breeland have been near-lockdown guys at times, and they’ve combined to shut down a handful of top wideouts, including Allen Robinson (53 yards), A.J. Brown (17), and Stefon Diggs (4). In this matchup back in Week 6, DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller combined to turn 21 targets into just 99 scoreless yards. Of late, a disproportionate chunk of their opponents’ yardage has come from backs and tight ends, who have readily exploited Kansas City’s weak linebackers. This unit is dinged even further without impressive rookie safety Juan Thornhill; Armani Watts underwhelmed in his place in Week 17. Still, this group is tough up front and on the boundaries, and thus not an ideal date for Deshaun Watson and his talented wideouts.

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


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Minnesota Vikings' passing attack is one of the lowest-volume, but highest-efficiency units in the NFL. Throughout the 2019 season, the Vikings attempted the third-fewest passes of any team in the NFL, but when they do pass the ball, their heavy utilization of play-action helps to maximize the unit's efficiency. Kirk Cousin's 2019 campaign has been the best of his career thus far, even without his full complement of pass-catchers for much of the year. Adam Thielen recently returned to the fold for Minnesota after a lengthy midseason absence due to a hamstring injury. Last weekend, Thielen re-established himself as a top-tier pass-catcher with a 7-catch, 129-yard performance on a team-leading 9 targets. Stefon Diggs' volume suffered given the return of Thielen, however, as he saw only 3 targets, hauling in 2 of them for just 19 yards. At tight end, Kyle Rudolph's presence cannot be ignored, as he caught 4 out of his 7 targets for 31 yards, including the game-winning touchdown in overtime. Overall, this is a talent-laden unit that excels when called upon, however infrequently.

The San Francisco 49ers' pass defense ranks amongst the strongest units in the NFL across the board, which is unsurprising given the overload of talent at every level. Along the defensive line, the 49ers field three different players, Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, and DeForest Buckner, with at least 7.5 sacks on the season, and Dee Ford, another impact edge rusher is poised to return to action this weekend after missing time with a hamstring injury. Then, at linebacker, Fred Warner made a strong case to be considered for an All-Pro team this season based primarily on his acuity defending the pass. Kwon Alexander, another elite pass-defending linebacker who missed the majority of this season due to a pectoral injury, will likely come off of the Injured Reserve this weekend and bolster an already-elite group of coverage linebackers. Then, in the secondary, All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman leads the way as the team's best lockdown pass-defender. K'Waun Williams and Ahkello Witherspoon round out San Francisco's top-flight cornerback unit. Perhaps the most important player to the 49ers' defense, Jaquiski Tartt, is also ready to return after a lengthy absence due to a rib injury. Tartt's versatility at the safety position enables defensive coordinator Robert Saleh's ability to call a very complex defense. In Tartt's 12 active games, the 49ers allowed over 20 points just 3 times, but they allowed over 20 points in all 4 games without him. Overall, San Francisco's elite pass defense will likely return significant contributors to the fold at all three levels ahead of this weekend's game, making life exceptionally difficult on Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings aerial attack.

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


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Ryan Tannehill’s newfound mystique has now carried him through Foxboro and into the Divisional Round. Of course, Tannehill is mostly minimized when things are going well for Derrick Henry and the run-dominant Titans. He dropped back just 16 times on Wild Card Weekend, and he threw deep (15+ yards) just 4 times (he didn’t complete any of them). But it has to be noted just how consistently efficient he’s been with his workload. He’s produced a historically-good 9.3 yards per attempt, with 23 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions. Most importantly, he puts world-class rookie A.J. Brown in much better position to succeed than Marcus Mariota did. Brown, who will likely finish too low in Rookie of the Year voting, was shut down last week by Stephon Gilmore, but posted 114+ yards in 4 of his 5 previous full games. Corey Davis and tight end Jonnu Smith both show playmaking potential, but both have drawn wildly inconsistent usage in this run-first offense. Beyond maybe an explosive deep-ball catch or two from Brown, it’s hard to get too excited about this unit, as the Titans will seek to pound the ball relentlessly on the ground. But the risk-averse among us will note the big-play upside here, which could win a number of fantasy contests if a high-scoring game were to break out unexpectedly.

The Baltimore pass defense has undergone a massive turnaround since adding cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Jimmy Smith to the lineup at midseason. Dating back to Week 10, they’ve allowed an astoundingly-low 5.5 yards per attempt and 171 a game. No opposing passer has topped 240 yards since Russell Wilson and Tom Brady did just before that run started - and they needed 41 and 46 attempts to do it. Peters and Marlon Humphrey have been All-Pro talents, with Peters smothering outside receivers and Humphrey making splash plays in the slot. Behind them, new safeties Earl Thomas and Chuck Clark have excelled in coverage, proving noticeable upgrades on Eric Weddle and Tony Jefferson. On paper, it’s a truly daunting matchup for the Titans pass game, and Ryan Tannehill will have to get creative to work the ball downfield. But the Ravens will still need to generate some degree of pressure, which has been the (mild) weakness of this unit. With just one dependable pass-rusher (Matthew Judon), they push the pocket well but only hit home for 37 sacks, good for 21st in the league.

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