Each week in the NFL there are games that feature marked mismatches, which oftentimes will become the deciding factor in the eventual outcome.
For example, last week in this space it was highlighted Drew Brees vs. the New York Giants defense was a significant mismatch. The New Orleans quarterback promptly tied the NFL record with seven touchdown passes in a 52-49 win that soared over the total.
With that said, the mismatches noted in this space are not meant necessarily as a pick. They are simply significant statistical advantages that can be used as launching points for further exploration. Let's get started.
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Atlanta Falcons (-7) at San Francisco 49ers
Matt Ryan and Julio Jones vs. 49ers Pass Defense
Ryan and Jones have been the most prolific quarterback-wide receiver duo in the NFL this season. Ryan is averaging 299.9 passing yards per game this season to rank fourth in the NFL, while Jones tops the league in both receptions (70) and receiving yards (111.5 per game).
This week that combination catches a 49ers defense that ranks 27th in the NFL with 280.0 passing yards allowed per game. Opponents have completed 69.3 percent of passes against the 49ers this season and have connected on nine plays of more than 40 yards, which also ranks near the bottom of the league.
Given those numbers, look for Jones to have several deep balls heading his way this week.
Jacksonville Jaguars at New York Jets (-2.5)
Jets 3rd-down offense vs. Jaguars 3rd-down defense
Third downs are where drives go to live or die. Conversion rates on third-down can often be a determining factor in the outcome of a game. In that respect, the Jets have a decided edge this week facing the Jaguars.
New York has been one of the best teams in the league on third downs this season. The Jets have converted 45 percent of such opportunities, which ranks sixth-best in the NFL. Conversely, the Jaguars defense has struggled to close out drives. Jacksonville has allowed opponents to convert on 47 percent of such opportunities, which is the third-worst in the league.
It was announced late Wednesday that starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick will be back under center for the Jets after suffering an injury in last week's 34-20 loss at the Oakland Raiders. Fitzpatrick is an efficient signal-caller that has really driven the success of the Jets on third downs. The Jacksonville defense could be in for another long day.
Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-4)
Derek Carr vs. Steelers Pass Defense
Derek Carr has been impressive in his second season for the Raiders. He and rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper have helped propel Oakland to the 10th-ranked passing offense in the NFL with 265.6 passing yards a game this season. Carr throws an absolutely beautiful ball, while Cooper has already established himself as a legitimate downfield threat. This week they face a Steelers defense that ranks 25th against the pass with 269.5 passing yards allowed per game. Pittsburgh's pass rush has been good enough his season, as evidenced by its 22 sacks on the year, but the secondary has been mistake-prone and has shown no sign of cleaning up the mental errors. If Carr is allowed time, he and Cooper could pick the Steelers apart this week.
Denver Broncos (-5) at Indianapolis Colts
Peyton Manning vs. Colts Pass Defense
Peyton Manning may be just a shell of his former self, but he has still helped lead the Broncos to an undefeated record and the 13th-ranked passing attack in the NFL. While that ranking may not sound all
that impressive, this is Peyton Manning we are talking about, and anyone that's seen the Colts pass defense knows there is every possibility the future Hall of Famer puts up big numbers this week.
Indianapolis has registered just 12 sacks this season-the fifth lowest total in the NFL-as well as 36 pass plays of 20 yards or more, which is the most in the NFL. Manning is likely to have time to throw, and that's never a good outlook for opponents. Look for Manning to break out with one of his best performances of the season this week.
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