Digging into the NFL Week 3 slate, one finds a handful lopsided matchups. Matt Ryan and Julio Jones taking on the league's worst pass-defense, anyone? That's the case when the Falcons travel to the Bayou to take on the Saints as a 3-point underdog Monday night.
Below is a closer look at three of the biggest mismatches on the Week 3 schedule as well as one of the most intriguing. Let's get started.
Washington Redskins at New York Giants (-4.5, 46)
Giants Front Seven vs. Matt Jones
The Giants made significant additions to its defense in the offseason, and so far it's paying off. New York ranks fourth in run defense, having allowed an average of just 71.0 YPG in wins over Cowboys and Saints.
Meanwhile, the Redskins (0-2) have averaged just 68.5 YPG on the ground in its two losses. That's 25th in the league. Yes, QB Kirk Cousins has struggled, but the inability to run the ball has certainly compounded the problem in D.C. Jones, the 'Skins leading rusher last season, has just 20 carries for 85 yards so far. The Redskins have to find balance on offense to turn things around. It's increasingly obvious Cousins can't carry the load on his own.
Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints (-3, 53.5)
Matt Ryan vs. Saints Pass Defense
It's more of the same in New Orleans. The Saints, one of the worst pass defenses in the league a season, were torched for an average of 336.0 YPG through the air in losses to the Raiders and Giants. To make matters worse, the New Orleans secondary suffered a big blow in Week 1 when top cornerback Delvin Breaux suffered a broken fibula. This is a constantly beleaguered group that faces a huge test this week.
The Falcons (1-1) average a league-high 355.5 YPG through the air. Ryan leads all quarterbacks this season with an average of 10.0 yards per pass attempt, while Jones has averaged 19.1 YPC while hauling in a touchdown grab in both games so far. The Falcons also appear to have some nice complementary pieces with WR Jacob Tamme (11 REC, 126 YDS, 1 TD) on the outside and Tevin Coleman out of the backfield. (7 REC, 120 YDS).
Denver Broncos at Cincinnati Bengals (-3, off)
Broncos Front Seven vs. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard
The Bengals (1-1) have averaged 2.8 yards per carry and totaled just 103 rushing yards through the first two weeks. That's the second-worst ground attack in the league. It's been a major point of emphasis all week to get Hill (20 carries, 53 YDS, 1 TD), Bernard (10 carries, 42 YDS) and what was a respectable running game a season ago going. Of course, that could prove mighty difficult with the vaunted Broncos defense coming to town.
Most Intriguing Week 3 Matchup
Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys (-7, 44.5)
Ezekiel Elliot vs. Bears Front Seven
The Cowboys had high hopes when trading up to take Elliot in the first round of this year's draft, but that optimism has yet to be rewarded in Big 'D.' Elliot has averaged just 3.3 yards per carry and fumbled twice in his first two games as a pro, all while supposedly playing behind the best 'O' line in football.
Elliot could get on track here. While the Bears are a mess in general, the run defense has been particularly atrocious. Chicago ranks 22nd in run defense (114.5 YPG) following losses to the Texans and Eagles. To make matters worse, the Bears front seven has been beset by injuries. Top LB Danny Trevathan, who had 11 tackles against the Texans, will miss several weeks with a thumb injury suffered against the Eagles. Fellow LB Lamarr Houston suffered a torn ACL against Philly and is lost for the season, while DT Eddie Goldman suffered a high ankle sprain in that game and is out at least four weeks.
Bear down, Chicago. This seems Elliot's time to shine.
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