WORST PASSING MATCHUPS
Miami Dolphins vs Buffalo
The Miami offense remains in full-blown transition, with the whispers growing louder by the minute for rookie quarterback Tua Tagoliova. The No. 5 pick had a quiet camp and may or may not be fully over ‘s serious hip injury, but Ryan Fitzpatrick looks like a very short-term placeholder. Fitzpatrick was horrendous in Week 1, managing just 6.4 yards per attempt and firing 3 interceptions. It was an especially disappointing day considering he faced little pressure and stayed upright (just one sack). Whoever sees the bulk of the Week 2 snaps may not have top wideout DeVante Parker, who’s having yet another hamstring issue managed closely by the team. Preston Williams would dominate targets if Parker can’t go, but he’ll do so in a brutal matchup.
In Week 1, the Jets’ Sam Darnold was harangued into a forgettable day against Buffalo- just 215 yards on 35 throws, and no downfield game to speak of. That’s not in and of itself surprising, but it was another show of dominance by one of football’s best secondaries. Jets slot man Jamison Crowder had a huge catch-and-run for a touchdown, but aside from that play, their wideouts totaled just 63 yards on their 21 targets. Darnold simply wasn’t prepared for a Bills unit capable of locking down the deep zones with fantastic centerfield safety play. Prior to garbage time, Darnold hit on just one of seven deep attempts (15+ yards downfield), with an interception. Of course, the catalyst here is cornerback Tre’Davious White, who’s capable of both blanketing top wideouts and making plays on the ball. Whether it’s Parker or Williams leading the Dolphins on the outside, they’ll have their hands full trying to work their way downfield - or even to make consistent catches underneath. Outside of White, the Bills are solid having one of the best safety tandems in the NFL in Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. If there is a weak spot in this defense it is Levi Wallace who was beat out by Josh Norman before Norman was placed on Injured Reserve, which could open up an opportunity if there is any opportunity for Preston Williams who typically lines up on the left side.
Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense vs Los Angeles Rams
The Philadelphia pass game entered 2020 snakebitten by injuries, and it certainly looked that way in a stunning Week 1 collapse. Working behind a line missing three camp starters, and without his full stable of backs or receivers, Carson Wentz had virtually no chance of success against a strong Washington pass rush. Wentz was sacked eight times and gave away three back-breaking turnovers under heavy pressure. He may get right tackle Lane Johnson back this week, but it’s anyone’s guess as to which receivers will suit up and what their roles will be. Against Washington, 5 different wideouts saw 27 snaps or more - and they totaled just 130 yards.
It’s not a great time for this bandaged unit to face the Rams’ imposing pass defense. This is a star-studded unit on all levels, and they held Dak Prescott to just 6.8 yards per attempt in the opener. It begins up front, where Aaron Donald continues to devour opposing pass games whole. Donald was simply too much for even the Cowboys’ sturdy line Sunday night, and he’s flanked by a talented front seven. He was a huge reason Prescott only attempted a single deep ball (15+ yards downfield) before the final 37 seconds of Week 1. In the secondary, Jalen Ramsey remains a shutdown presence, as he showed Sunday in tracking Amari Cooper. The Eagles will need seriously elevated play from their reserve linemen - and a few unlikely deep balls to connect - to penetrate this group. If there is a fault of this Rams defense it is at the tight end position which could be the way the Eagles try to move the ball as they allowed four tight ends over 70 yards last season and have one of the youngest safety duo’s in the league with Taylor Rapp (22) and John Johnson III (24).
New York Jets Passing Offense vs San Francisco
Sam Darnold is still just 23, and he may well blossom into an elite quarterback in time. But Sunday’s pitiful showing against the Bills’ swarming pass defense wasn’t a step forward. Darnold wasn’t connected with his wideouts in the slightest, resulting in a heap of misfires and lost opportunities down the field. To be fair, Darnold was working with an undermanned receiving corps, forcing him to lean almost exclusively on slot man Jamison Crowder and tight end Chris Herndon. But regardless of fault, it’s clear this unit lacks a big-play spark to be counted on.
Against the 49ers, they’ll face a unit that runs hot and cold, but presents big matchup problems to the Jets’ few strengths. This group allowed DeAndre Hopkins to catch 14 balls in his Cardinals debut, but shut down everyone else Kyler Murray had to look for. Non-Hopkins receivers tallied just 55 yards on their 14 targets. Darnold has yet to show he can succeed under pressure, and he’ll face a swarming pass rush led by Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead. And when he tests the slots and seams, he’ll be throwing into a pool of stingy playmakers. Linebacker Fred Warner is among the league’s best at defending the pass, and safety Jimmie Ward has developed into an elite talent in the slot. And that’s to say nothing of Richard Sherman, who remains a near-lockdown presence on the left side most weeks.
Seattle Passing Offense vs New England
It’s hard to overstate the greatness of Russell Wilson’s 2020 Opening Day. The always-efficient Wilson hit on 31 of his 35 throws and fired 4 touchdowns to spearhead an easy win over the Falcons. And he didn’t accomplish that by dinking and dunking - Wilson threw deep 7 times Sunday, resulting in 111 yards and a touchdown, plus a 41-yard interference penalty. Armed with two dynamic playmakers in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, Wilson remains a case study in how to turn mediocre passing volume into massive production.
While it’s never wise to bet against Wilson, though, he couldn’t have drawn a worse matchup for Week 2. The Patriots return most key personnel from their dominant 2019 secondary, including reigning Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore and Devin and Jason McCourty round out the secondary. It’s hard to draw much from a matchup with the banged-up Dolphins, but the Patriots predictably handed Ryan Fitzpatrick his worst day (6.4 yards per attempt and 3 interceptions) in nearly two calendar years. Wilson and his weapons present much more of a challenge, but that’s nothing new for this suffocating unit. Last season, after all, they took on a five-game stretch against Lamar Jackson, Carson Wentz, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, and Patrick Mahomes II - and allowed just 221 yards a game, with only 6 touchdowns through the air. With Gilmore typically locking down half the field and a group of rangy, athletic linebackers and safeties, this will be a very difficult day for the Seahawks this week.
Las Vegas Raiders vs New Orleans
Derek Carr looked poised and efficient in his 2020 debut, completing 22 of his 30 throws in the win. The Las Vegas attack didn’t push the envelope or make many splash plays, but provided solid support to Josh Jacobs’ ball-dominant day. If nothing else, it announced the arrival of Henry Ruggs III as a dynamic deep threat. Carr doesn’t look downfield often, but he sent a pair of deep balls to his prized rookie, completing one for 45 yards.
The Saints’ dynamic pass defense should offer far more resistance than that of the stripped-down Panthers. Jon Gruden will look to control the game on the ground, but the Saints’ buzzsaw of a run defense will eventually force Carr to create plays down the field. And this is a unit packed with playmakers; they showed in Week 1 how capable they are of punishing opposing quarterbacks. Tom Brady was harangued all game by the pass rush, which recorded six quarterback hits and three sacks. The Saints may not get edge man Marcus Davenport back for Week 2, but are plenty deep and explosive across the line. Top cornerback Marshon Lattimore remains a shutdown presence on the outside, and while new addition Jenkins struggled in his debut, he issued a reminder of his key strength by jumping a sideline route for an easy pick-six. But most of the action here should take place inside, where slot man Chauncey Gardner-Johnson looms as a tough task for Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow, and tight end Darren Waller. All told, it’s hard to expect a repeat for Carr’s Week 1 efficiency against this powerful group.
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