Evan Silva

Matchups

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Week 1 Game Matchups

Friday, September 11, 2009




NY Jets @ Houston

New Jets RCB Lito Sheppard hasn't overcome the coverage woes that plagued him late in his Eagles career. He was a liability throughout August and will be picked on by Matt Schaub. The absence of DE Shaun Ellis and OLB Calvin Pace -- two of New York's top three pass rushers -- due to suspension won't hurt Schaub's cause...Ellis' loss creates a void at left end, which will be "filled" by lackluster reserves Mike DeVito (hamstring) and Sione Pouha (one start in five years). It's setup to be a big day for the Texans' offense, Steve Slaton included...The Jets used shutdown LCB Darrelle Revis as a "shadow" corner last year, but it's unclear if Rex Ryan will keep that plan in place. Either way, Andre Johnson is an obvious must play. Avoid Kevin Walter (hamstring).

The Texans' front four got heavier this offseason. LE Antonio Smith (6'4/285) and NT Shaun Cody (6'4/310) are the new starters. All four down linemen are at least 285 pounds. A make-you-miss back like Leon Washington has a better chance of success than Thomas Jones, a grinding runner, or power option Shonn Greene...Texans RCB Dunta Robinson will square off with split end Jerricho Cotchery for much of the day. It's a good matchup for Jerricho because Robinson is rusty after ending his holdout just days ago...However, camp star Dustin Keller may still lead the Jets in receiving yardage, as he'll see a lot of SS Dominique Barber in coverage. Barber can hit, but Keller's speed (4.5-flat forty) gives him a significant edge over Marion's brother (4.64).

Jacksonville @ Indianapolis

The Colts won't ease Donald Brown into the lineup. He'll immediately be used in a series-by-series rotation with Joseph Addai, giving him a shot at 13-17 touches. Still, it's a good week to "wait and see" on this backfield. Jags rookie DT Terrance Knighton (6'3/321) had a standout camp and may finally be the Marcus Stroud successor Jacksonville's been desperate for so long...LCB Rashean Mathis is sure to follow Colts split end Reggie Wayne all over the field. The starter opposite Mathis, third-round pick Derek Cox, missed much of camp due to injury and played college ball at William & Mary, leaving him without experience against anyone remotely resembling NFL wideouts. First-year starter Anthony Gonzalez's breakout game is at hand.

The Colts won't have SS Bob Sanders (knee), so former undrafted free agent Melvin Bullitt will start. Further secondary issues lie at right cornerback, where either diminutive Tim Jennings or raw underclassman rookie Jerraud Powers will stand in. With LCB Kelvin Hayden likely to keep Torry Holt in check, Troy Williamson has a good shot to build on his stellar preseason in Week 1. Then sell high...DT Ed Johnson is serving a one-game suspension, the Colts are moving smallish DE Robert Mathis back into a full-time role, and second-round pick Fili Moala failed to distinguish himself in camp. Add in Sanders' absence and Maurice Jones-Drew should start piping hot.

Detroit @ New Orleans

The Saints know they don't need to risk Pierre Thomas aggravating his MCL sprain to beat Detroit at home and will almost certainly hold him out. That sets up Mike Bell for 16-19 carries and all goal-line chances, where Sean Payton is confident in the former Bronco. Meet your next Frisman Jackson/Dante Rosario Week 1 superhero...All Saints starting skill players should be in lineups against a Lions defense that is near certain to be porous again. Detroit lacks a shutdown corner between Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry, and starts a rookie (Louis Delmas) and career special teamer (Kalvin Pearson) at safety. It's a severe mismatch favoring the NFL's top passing team.

We highly recommend the Saints' fantasy defense in Matthew Stafford's debut. Stafford showed poise and the ability to make all the throws in August, but was pick prone and New Orleans has upgraded its secondary immensely. That DEs Will Smith and Charles Grant will avoid suspension is the clincher...Stafford is a candidate for 33-37 attempts, as the Lions figure to be playing catch-up after the Saints' first or second drive. Keep your Detroit skill players going. Throwing often won't hurt Kevin Smith, who stays on the field in passing situations. He's an every-down back.

Dallas @ Tampa Bay

The Bucs' late-preseason shakeup at safety (Jermaine Phillips moved back to DB after gaining weight all offseason to play linebacker) bodes well for tight ends to start hot against them. Jason Witten, who will see increased red-zone targets with Terrell Owens out of Big D, is first to benefit...One beat writer talked up a 50:50 split between Marion Barber and Felix Jones, but that's highly unlikely. Jones is a pace-change back with kick return ability and soft hands, but Barber is extremely difficult to pull off the field because of his power, sound blitz pickups, and receiving skills. He'll be a much better bet for touchdowns than Jones all year...Look for 34-year-old RCB Ronde Barber to cover Roy Williams while Aqib Talib squares off against the Miles Austin-Patrick Crayton combo at strong-side wideout. We like Williams to silence the doubters in Week 1.

If you can believe it, Dallas' front seven got bigger with the change from Chris Canty to Igor Olshansky at right defensive end. New strong outside linebacker Anthony Spencer is also a major run-stopping upgrade over castoff Greg Ellis. The Bucs' 2-2-1 rotation already caps any of their backs' upsides. It's very difficult to imagine starting one...Antonio Bryant (knee) caught no passes this preseason from Byron Leftwich. Leftwich (5.25 YPA, 48.8 completion rate) was downright awful. Let's wait a week before plugging in any Bucs pass catchers besides TE Kellen Winslow.

4:15PM ET Games

San Francisco @ Arizona

The Cards' 0-4 preseason is of no concern for the offense. Arizona led the NFL in passing yards despite not game planning for one of its opponents. Kurt Warner will start hot against a Niners secondary that trots out Dashon Goldson (two career starts) and coverage liability Michael Lewis at safety, and brittle Shawntae Spencer (one start since '06) at right corner. Larry Fitzgerald will likely see Spencer in primary coverage, while Nate Clements shadows Anquan Boldin...Arizona will use fewer three-wide sets this year; avoid Steve Breaston...With a good shot at 20 touches, Tim Hightower is a safer play than Chris Wells. Wells may be the lead back by midseason, but Hightower's 4.8 preseason YPC and passing-down skills locked him into the Week 1 starting job.

The 49ers will go run heavy all year, but particularly on Sunday. Only three teams gave up more rushing touchdowns than Arizona this preseason. Look for 25 carries and a TD from Frank Gore, with Glen Coffee also active...Leave Shaun Hill and the 49ers' receivers on your bench. Josh Morgan was surprisingly quiet in August (three catches, 20 yards), and Hill seemed to show more rapport with slow slot guy Arnaz Battle...You shouldn't need a last-minute tight end in Week 1, but Vernon Davis is a good bet if you do. The Cards will use SS Adrian Wilson as a linebacker/safety, with FS Antrel Rolle on Davis. Rolle has been oft-burned since entering the league.


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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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