WORST PASSING MATCHUPS
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Top 5 Passing Matchups Week 5
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Passing Matchup Chart Week 5
Cleveland vs Indianapolis
The Browns continue to learn that, more often than not, their offense takes a step forward when less is asked of Baker Mayfield. Their three straight wins have been decidedly run-dominant, with Mayfield putting up just 25 attempts and 180 yards a game. Even with Nick Chubb on the shelf, this offense will stay ground-based, and Mayfield will look to make a few plays a week in the margins. It was certainly encouraging to see Odell Beckham Jr erupt last Sunday, posting 154 total yards and 3 touchdowns. Perhaps he'll find his fit yet, but it likely won't be a very predictable one. There's just not much volume to pick through, and not nearly enough downfield consistency.
The Colts continue to field one of 2020's stingiest pass defenses. They've yet to face a truly challenging air attack but have clamped down on any and all deep-ball threats along the way. Opposing passers are putting up just 6.0 yards per attempt on the young season, struggling mightily to find space down the field. Last Sunday, Allen Robinson became the first wideout to top 65 yards in this matchup. The Colts suddenly boast a deep, talented trio of cornerbacks, spurred by Xaiver Rhodes' return to dominance. Rhodes floundered for the last few years in Minnesota but has been remarkable thus far as a Colt. He's capable of both shadowing top receivers and making plays on the ball when tested. The gifted Rock Ya-Sin has returned to action on the other side, and Kenny Moore II remains solid in the slot. The Browns have shown signs of life lately, but it's hard to see Mayfield being the one to crack the code and buck the Colts' dominant trend.
Philadelphia at Pittsburgh
The Eagles' pass game has been almost comically snakebitten by injury, and it's hard to trust any part of it right now. They've produced an anemic 5.8 yards per attempt on the season, with just 4 touchdowns, with Carson Wentz throwing to a skeleton crew of practice-squad wideouts. There are so many ailments and aggravations on this depth chart t's hard to know who will and won't be available from mid-week to Sunday. With Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Dallas Goedert, and Jalen Reagor all either likely or certain to miss Week 5, Wentz will again work with an uninspiring group of Greg Ward, John Hightower, Travis Fulgham, and perhaps J.J. Arcega-Whiteside. Even Zach Ertz (139 yards through 4 weeks) has felt the pinch of this stuck-in-neutral attack.
The Steelers haven't been particularly dominant against the pass thus far. They've given up 7.7 yards per attempt and 273 a game, well below their typical marks. But it's likely just natural fluctuation back toward the norm for a unit that's not perfect but often dominant. This is an unquestionably tough matchup for any passer, thanks to a swarming, diverse pass rush and talented cover men down the field. T.J. Watt leads a group that hurries passers at a league-best rate - 22% of all dropbacks - and forces tons of misfires down the field. On the back end, the Steelers field a trio of strong cover men in Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, and slot specialist Mike Hilton. They can be beaten deep at times, but there's usually not much efficiency against them. Wentz's connection with his muddied group of receivers gets even shakier against opportunistic defenses like this one.
Tampa Bay at Chicago
The Buccaneers certainly sprang to life Sunday on the arm of Tom Brady, quieting early-season critics of the new fit. Brady steered an injury-ravaged offense to 38 points, throwing 5 touchdowns to 5 different receivers along the way. His connection with Mike Evans is potent, and it's no surprise to see him utilize different positions and talents from drive to drive, snap to snap. He's not exactly vintage Brady, with two bad pick-sixes already on the books, but he's certainly performing near the top end of reasonable offseason expectations. There are big Week 5 questions in the air, though, centered mostly around the availability of Chris Godwin. If he can't go, Brady will be down yet another prominent target - tight end O.J. Howard has been lost for the year. This is Rob Gronkowski's breakout chance, but he doesn't look up to it.
The Bears continue to prove one of the game's more difficult matchups through the air. They've faced their share of pass-happy offenses, yet have given up just 6.5 yards per attempt and 242 a game. Only one wideout - Calvin Ridley early in Week 3 - has done anything truly noteworthy against this group. The Bears start a pair of aggressive, route-jumping cornerbacks in Kyle Fuller and rookie Jaylon Johnson, plus a great centerfield playmaker in Eddie Jackson. There are definitely lapses when the gambles don't succeed, as seen last week, with virtually every defensive back getting beaten downfield at least once. But this fast-breaking secondary matches up well against Brady's declining arm strength. Many of those back-breaking pick-sixes come from sideline throws that don't quite carry enough velocity, and cornerbacks like these tend to feast on that.
Miami at San Francisco
The Dolphins may not be far from a quarterback switch. Tua Tagovailoa is at full health, and Ryan Fitzpatrick didn't inspire much confidence in a shaky Week 4 performance. With his volume of turnover-worthy plays, it's hard to call Fitzpatrick the safer option than the accomplished rookie. Last week he struggled mightily against the league's worst pass defense; he threw two interceptions and had a couple more dropped. When targeting receivers other than DeVante Parker, Fitzpatrick managed just 6.2 yards per attempt, a recurring theme for this top-heavy attack. Until a secondary playmaker steps up - one more consistently than Mike Gesicki - this is a low-floor, low-ceiling unit.
The 49ers remain battered and bruised in the secondary, possibly down all their top four cornerbacks for this week. But the scheme is sound, and it's a deep group that's more than capable of filling in the gaps. Much of that is thanks to the return of Jason Verrett, who has always paid dividends for the short bursts he's on the field. Verrett is an elite cover man when healthy, and he drew 98% of snaps Sunday in his second game back. He may not shadow Parker in the classical sense, but he'll play him enough on the outside to dampen the upside a bit. When opponents keep it short, they find themselves testing an underrated linebacking crew led by Fred Warner. They're adept at breaking up underneath throws and helping to limit tight end production. Ultimately, this is a difficult matchup to navigate even while banged up. If they get any injury luck late in the week, of course, things will turn even tougher for Fitzpatrick. The 49ers boast the playmakers to jump on errant throws while still safely holding Parker in check.
Las Vegas at Kansas City
The Raiders pass game continues to subside on short, safe throws to underneath routes. Derek Carr has completed 74% of his throws thus far, and he's interception-free, but he's also near the bottom of the league in depth of target. That's just as well, though, as the Raiders lack a true deep threat anyway. Rookie Henry Ruggs III may not be ready to return Sunday, which would leave slot targets Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and Nelson Agholor as the backbone of this attack. There's some volume at play here, especially in what should be a pace-up game, but no real dynamism to speak of without Ruggs.
The Chiefs don't get much press for their pass defense, but it's a surprisingly stout unit that often plays a sizeable role in the team's successes. Over the past two weeks, they've stifled Lamar Jackson (97 yards over 28 attempts) and turned the Cam Newton-less Patriots into a hapless pass unit (5.1 per attempt and 3 interceptions). They can be worked over on the inside, as Keenan Allen and Hunter Henry (a combined 13 for 179 yards) showed back in Week 2. But outside receivers continue to struggle to push past the cornerbacks down the field. Rashad Fenton and Charvarius Ward (when healthy) have stepped up as one of the game's best duos through four weeks. Perhaps most important has been the return of safety Juan Thornhill, a rising star in centerfield who attacks the throw with vigor.
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