Evan Silva

Matchups

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Week 1 Game Matchups

Friday, September 11, 2009




Washington @ NY Giants

Brandon Jacobs is a must-start every time he suits up, but Ahmad Bradshaw may give the hefty Redskins defensive line more problems. Bradshaw's shake-and-bake style, surprising pop, and elusiveness in space will be a handful for oversized and aging DLs Phillip Daniels and Cornelius Griffin. Albert Haynesworth is quick off the snap, but does little in pursuit, while RE Andre Carter is mostly a one-trick pass-rushing pony. Use Bradshaw in a flex spot if you're searching for options...The Giants' passing game is to be avoided until a wideout steps up. A Domenik Hixon-Mario Manningham-Hakeem Nicks committee at split end is possible, and Steve Smith is a possession target with weak red-zone skills.

The Giants changed defensive coordinators this offseason, promoting LBs coach Bill Sheridan from within. The player moves, however, strongly indicate that there will be no shortage of fire-zone blitzes and pressure from all angles. That's a major concern for a Redskins line that returns its two best players (LT Chris Samuels and RG Randy Thomas) at age 32+ and coming off surgery. It'll be a long day for Jim Zorn's passing offense...The Skins' running game is unlikely to fare much better. Clinton Portis is a candidate to start slow after averaging 3.1 YPC on just 11 preseason carries and 2.87 yards-per in his last five "real" games. Having lost his third-down job to Ladell Betts, it's not only Portis' production that threatens to be down. His role is declining.

St. Louis @ Seattle

New Seahawks offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, one of the run-heaviest minds of our generation, will be able to execute his game plan to the fullest against a Rams defense that already lost DT Adam Carriker for the season and is juggling bodies at outside linebacker. St. Louis will start 2008 Mr. Irrelevant David Vobora on the strong side, and career practice body Gary Gibson on the interior. Expect reduced pass attempts from Matt Hasselbeck and a surprisingly strong game from Jim Mora-alleged feature back Julius Jones...We're not in love with T.J. Houshmandzadeh this year, and while he needs to be started his matchup isn't that great on paper. The Rams will likely shadow Housh with physical LCB Ronald Bartell, who is a good enough tackler to prevent Houshmandzadeh from racking up yards after the catch. Housh could catch 6-9 balls and still not top 100 yards.

New split end Laurent Robinson showed the best rapport with Rams quarterbacks this preseason, hauling in a team-high 10 passes for 137 yards to secure a starting job. Donnie Avery is a slightly better talent, but Robinson's matchup is better this time around. With Marcus Trufant (back) out, the 6'2/194-pound speedster will likely see a lot of 30-year-old RCB Ken Lucas in coverage. Robinson is a better Week 1 play than Avery, who missed the entire preseason with a stress fracture...Steven Jackson is another must-play that we'd limit expectations for. Seattle returns high-motor DE Patrick Kerney, added 300-pound DE Cory Redding via free agency, and drafted new strong-side linebacker Aaron Curry. The Rams will need to pass to win. Jackson can still be a major factor as a receiver out of the backfield, but his rushing total may be unimpressive.

Sunday Night Football

Chicago @ Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers couldn't have had a better preseason (77.4% completions, 11.7 YPA, 5:0 TDs to INTs) and it'll carry over to Sunday night. Chicago is bound to have communication problems in the backend, as FS Danieal Manning, LCB Charles Tillman, and RCB Zackary Bowman all sat out most or all of camp with injuries. Greg Jennings, cleared from his preseason concussion, has explosion potential...new assistant Rod Marinelli will help Chicago's defensive line, but Ryan Grant remains a must-start RB2. He averaged a solid 4.4 YPC in August and the Bears are unsettled at nose tackle after losing Dusty Dvoracek for the year. DEs Adewale Ogunleye, 32, and Alex Brown, 30, are also getting "up there" in age...Wait and see how Packers TE Jermichael Finley fares early on before considering him. Green Bay's loaded receiver corps is likely to hog targets.

Rather than test the Packers' dynamic Charles Woodson-Al Harris corner duo, look for Bears coordinator Ron Turner to run a ball-control offense in the opener. Turner was aggressive this preseason -- Chicago ranked sixth in the NFL with a 7.6 YPA -- but it'd be much smarter to utilize Matt Forte heavily against Green Bay's transitioning front seven...If any non-Forte pass catcher on the Bears is poised for a big game, it's Greg Olsen. Woodson and Harris will give raw receivers Devin Hester and Earl Bennett fits. Olsen will see a combination of tackle-first, cover-later SS Atari Bigby and ILB Nick Barnett (knee) in coverage over the middle. Olsen is an every-week starter.

Monday Night Football

Buffalo @ New England

Whether Tom Brady is "all the way" back from knee surgery is the subject of some debate among nitpicky analysts. We deal in facts and numbers. Brady posted a 7.7 YPA, threw two touchdowns to no interceptions, and demonstrated the ability to take hits this preseason. He'll light up a Bills secondary that trots out new starting SS Bryan Scott and is unlikely to generate consistent pass rush...Fred Taylor will probably get the start, but the Pats will continue to use all their backs as rotating role players. Laurence Maroney will eat into early-down carries, BenJarvus Green-Ellis is a candidate for goal-line work, and Kevin Faulk will catch the passes. It's still a situation to avoid...Randy Moss (6'4/210) has an unfair size advantage on Bills LCB Terrence McGee (5'9/198) and RCB Leodis McKelvin (5'10/184). It's also hard to imagine Buffalo having answers for Wes Welker in three-receiver sets. Second-year player Reggie Corner will cover the slot, and likely struggle with Welker's precision routes. By the way, Welker (undisclosed) is going to play.

Buffalo has an ugly situation brewing in front of Trent Edwards. New blind-side tackle Demetrius Bell is athletic, but has played zero career snaps and will square off with Pats RE Ty Warren's devastating bull rush in Monday night's affair. On the strong side, New England LE Derrick Burgess is a mismatch for immobile Bills RT Brad Butler. Inside, Vince Wilfork is likely to manhandle light-in-the-pants LG Andy Levitre, who couldn't even stop Titans journeyman Kevin Vickerson in the preseason. Completely avoid Edwards...If the Patriots dominate the trenches as we anticipate, Buffalo may resort to frequent Fred Jackson dumpoffs. Jackson is a solid RB2 play in PPR leagues.

San Diego @ Oakland

No team was worse than San Diego at defending tight ends in '08, and that may not change. Rookie Kevin Ellison didn't step up to grab the strong safety job, so burnable starter Clinton Hart returns. Expect a big night for Zach Miller...The Bolts will use a rotation of Shawne Merriman and rookie Larry English against Raiders LT Mario Henderson. Expect a sack or two between them and a pair of picks from JaMarcus Russell with Bolts RCB Antonio Cromartie back healthy...Justin Fargas (hamstring) hasn't practiced in nearly three weeks and is unlikely to play a substantial role in Week 1. This game should re-energize the Darren McFadden hype train. He's a threat for 25 touches even if Oakland falls behind early because McFadden is an outstanding receiver.

It's easy to imagine LaDainian Tomlinson looking like his old self against the Richard Seymour-less Raiders. Oakland felt desperate to deal for Seymour because undersized RE Trevor Scott was getting blown off the ball all preseason. Scott will start Monday, and the front seven will remain among the league's leakiest. While the rest of the onlookers are saying "he's baaack," Tomlinson owners should sell high before Week 2...Vincent Jackson is always subject to being shut down when the Bolts play Oakland because he typically lines up across from Nnamdi Asomugha. It could be different this time around, as Asomugha has a club on his hand after suffering a "chip" fracture in August. The All Pro may struggle to knock V-Jax off his routes in press coverage.


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



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