Written and Ranked by Harley Schultz
1. Denver Broncos @ OAK
Derek Carr will get to feel the pain that his elder brother felt throughout his career. That is the pain of scraping himself off the grass following one of many sacks. For his sake, hopefully the grass has fully grown in over the infield dirt. The Broncos just got done absolutely murdering Teddy Bridgewater and now they bring their league-leading 20 sacks into the Coliseum. I know Oakland has done a good job of keeping Carr upright so far, but they have not faced anything like this pass rush. Not to mention, that Denver ranks second in takeaways as well.
2. Pittsburgh Steelers @ SD
San Diego has been forced to reassemble their offensive line using spare parts from their practice squad and even players off the street. Plus they lost 3/5 of their wide receivers corps over the last two weeks. No offensive line plus a shortage of talented pass catchers equates out to Philip Rivers being forced to unload the ball very quickly. Pittsburgh should cause their offense even more fits since they have the leagues’ fifth-most sacks and they’ll get a boost from a returning Ryan Shazier. Over the last three weeks, San Diego has allowed 10 sacks. Plus they have also turned the ball over eight times already and they have given up a DST touchdown in two of the four weeks.
3. Baltimore Ravens vs. CLE
Johnny Manziel or Josh McCown, it hasn’t mattered as both quarterbacks have spent as much time on their backs following sacks as they have spent celebrating completed passes. Only three teams have allowed more sacks per game through the first three weeks. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s defense is coming off of a four sack game and they are averaging the seventh-most sacks overall. No team has been able to run the ball successfully against Baltimore, so this game will be in McCown’s hands. That is not a pleasant thought for Cleveland fans since the Browns have eight turnovers in the three games that McCown has played.
4. Arizona Cardinals @ DET
The Detroit Lions are scoring the fourth-fewest points per game and Arizona is allowing the sixth-fewest. It should make sense then that Detroit will struggle to put points on the board this week. Making matters worse for Matthew Stafford and company is that only two teams have turned the ball over more frequently, and that doesn’t even include the fumble (that may or may not have been batted out of the back of the end zone) last week. This should be a truly juicy matchup for an Arizona defense that has scored four DST touchdowns already this season.
5. New England Patriots @ DAL
Will we get another week of Brandon Weeden or will we get our first 2015 look at Matt Cassel? Will it matter? Dallas has actually gotten decent production out of Weeden as he has the sixth-best QB-Rating in the league. Dallas has also turned the ball over only once since Weeden went under center. Despite these positive trends, Weeden has not faced a pass rush like the Patriots’ yet. Only Denver has recorded more sacks per game. Meanwhile, Brandon has been planted five times over the last two weeks.
6. New York Giants vs. SF
Thirteen sacks and six turnovers is all that the 49ers have provided their foes over the last three weeks. Oh yeah, they also allowed a couple of pesky DST touchdowns too. Then there is that whole 12.5 points per game that they are scoring on the road this season. With all these things working in their favor, what do the Niners have to worry about? Ok seriously, The Giants have held opponents to the eighth-worst passer rating at their home ballpark. Something tells me this isn’t a good sign for Colin Kaepernick and his 32nd ranked QB-rating.
7. St. Louis Rams @ GB
With the assembled talent of the St. Louis Rams defense, they are causing havoc with opponents’ quarterbacks. Only two teams are averaging more sacks than the Rams and they are getting to the quarterback on more than 10% of their opponents’ pass attempts. The Packers are throwing the ball approximately 31 times per game, so St. Louis should finish with roughly three sacks, if their trends continue. That said, Green Bay has allowed amongst the fewest total sacks this season. Last week however, San Francisco did get to Aaron Rodgers three times. So it seems like the loss of Bryan Bulaga may finally be affecting them.
8. Seattle Seahawks @ CIN
This week we get a battle pitting two of the toughest defenses in the league against each other. Since coming into the league, Andy Dalton has been maligned as frequently as Rodney Dangerfield and Nickelback combined. This year is no different as he continues to get no respect despite producing the second-best QB-Rating. The Seahawks are notorious for their ball-hawking and Dalton has been known for losing the ball. Through four-plus seasons, Dalton has 93 total turnovers. He has done a better job of protecting the football this year, but he has faced only one premium defense so far. That defense, Baltimore, forced two Dalton turnovers including a DST touchdown.
9. Green Bay Packers vs. STL
In Week 4, Green Bay sacked Colin Kaepernick on just under 20% of his pass attempts. So it should come as no surprise that the Packers rank number one in terms of opponent sack percentage. Nick Foles has stayed upright for the most part this season, having been sacked only six times. The Rams also are only turning the ball over once a week on average. Nevertheless, Green Bay will be bringing the blitz this week to try and force Foles into fails. If they can get into his head, they can take advantage of what few mistakes Foles makes.
10. Cincinnati Bengals vs. SEA
Thomas Rawls, who looked serviceable as a fill-in Week 3, really dropped the ball given the chance to be Seattle’s top running back on Monday night. Marshawn Lynch may or may not be back this week, but with Fred Jackson suffering a high-ankle sprain, his presence is almost necessary. Without a semblance of a running game, Russell Wilson was forced to improvise Monday and he ended up making a bunch of mistakes. Following this last tough outing, Seattle now has allowed 18 sacks, six turnovers, and two DST touchdowns this year. On their behalf, Cincinnati currently ranks tenth in terms of takeaways and seventh in sacks per game. This includes a five sack game last week.
11. Buffalo Bills @ TEN
I feel bad for Marcus Mariota. He has dominated three highly craptastic defenses so far. This week he is going to face an actual NFL-grade defense. Heck, Buffalo may even be considered a premiere defense. Unfortunately for the Bills, so far this season their defense has performed mediocre at best. Their vaunted pass rush has only seven sacks, but they do have nine takeaways and a defensive touchdown. This also marks the first time that Buffalo has faced a quarterback that wasn’t amongst the top twelve based on ranking going into the season. Mariota may prove to be a young stud by the end of the year, but there will be bumps along the way. This will be one of those bumps.
12. Kansas City Chiefs vs. CHI
The return of Jay Cutler under center relieved some of Chicago’s nightmares. Of course, he brings his own complement of inaccuracies with him. The Bears as a whole have been sacked nine times. They also turned the ball over six times. Not to mention that they also have allowed three DST touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Chiefs have been abused by opposing wide receivers this year (10 touchdowns)…while stopping pretty much every other position (5 total touchdowns). Most of this damage came without Sean Smith at cornerback. Smith returned last week and held A.J. Green out of the end zone. Of course, the rest of the Bengals’ receiving corps torched the Chiefs’ remaining secondary pieces. Chicago has one wide receiver of note and he has missed all but one game this year. If Alshon Jeffery does play this week, he will no doubt be shadowed by Smith. Do you trust the rest of the Bears offense to do anything? I don’t.
13. Houston Texans vs. IND
Would you believe me if I told you that Andrew Luck had the 34th ranked QB-rating right now? That ranks below such world-beaters as: Kirk Cousins, Josh McCown, Bryan Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Jameis Winston and Colin Kaepernick…not to mention 27 others. Indianapolis will likely turn back to Luck this Thursday, but he will find himself harried relentlessly by the Texans’ pass rush. He also isn’t likely to get much help from a running game that features a dinged up Frank Gore, who has been battling fumbling problems, going against a defense that is giving up only 77 rushing yards per game at home. Houston only has six sacks this year, but they had five in two games against Luck last year. They also forced four turnovers and scored two DST touchdowns in that pair of games.
14. Philadelphia Eagles vs. NO
Thanks in part to Darren Sproles’ presence any kickoff or punt return can quickly become a return touchdown. Last year, Philly averaged 0.6 DST touchdowns per week. This year they only have one score so far (a Sproles’ return) so they are likely due. The Saints have given up the tenth-most points on the season. This includes 58 points scored against them in their two road contests. I’m certainly not counting on Philadelphia’s defense stifling Drew Brees (even though he is not 100% yet). This ranking is based solely on the likelihood of Sproles housing one.
15. Jacksonville Jaguars @ TB
The Jaguars have been quietly effective from a defensive standpoint this season. They have multiple sacks in every game this season and only one team has topped 400 total yards against them. If you throw out that blowout at the hands of the Patriots, Jacksonville would be allowing the eighth-fewest points this year. Tampa Bay ranks second-worst in terms of giveaways, including five last week. Meanwhile, the Jaguars have only three takeaways, but I could realistically see them matching that this week.
Atlanta Falcons vs. WAS
Don’t look now but Atlanta is tied for seventh in takeaways this year. This is important when you consider that three of the teams either tied with, or above them, in the takeaway standings are on bye this week. Meanwhile, it should surprise no one that Washington and their Kirk Cousins’ led offense ranks ninth-worst in terms of giveaways. With Cousins at the helm, every week is like an Oprah special. Here’s a pick for you, and a fumble for you, and a pick for you, and even a pick-six for you good sir!