Evan Silva

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D-Will will get the pill

Saturday, October 10, 2009




Washington @ Carolina

The aforementioned Redskins are not playing up to their talent on the front seven. Undoubtedly, Panthers offensive boss Jeff Davidson went back to the drawing board during the Week 4 bye intending to refocus on the ground game. The 0-3 Panthers are 27th in rush attempts per game after finishing sixth in 2008, and going 12-4. DeAngelo Williams will come out roaring, with Jonathan Stewart also resuming a substantial role. It doesn't hurt their causes that Skins DTs Cornelius Griffin (elbow sprain) and Albert Haynesworth (hip) are less than 100 percent.

The Panthers' offense is built to set up the pass by using the run. While less throwing may cut Steve Smith's targets, he'll see fewer safeties "over the top" if Williams and Stewart are humming. Smith is just the No. 51 fantasy receiver through four weeks, but remains an ideal buy low with his bye out of the way and no physical decline in sight. He torched the Falcons for 131 yards on eight grabs in Week 2, so it isn't like Smith suddenly can't play...Muhsin Muhammad has obviously declined, however. He's to be avoided even against weak corners like Skins LCB DeAngelo Hall.

Clinton Portis has a fourth straight favorable matchup, but his inability to top 100 rushing yards against St. Louis, Detroit, and Tampa Bay in Weeks 2-4 provides little hope for future success. Still, don't buy into hype that Marcus Mason is a serious threat to Portis' carries. Mason isn't even a second-string caliber runner and has played behind career special teamer Rock Cartwright at times this year...Portis has certainly lost several steps, but Ladell Betts' 1.6 YPC average all but confirms that no one can produce behind Washington's aging, injury-decimated offensive line.

The Panthers' up-and-down pass defense will be back up after this week. Top CB Chris Gamble will likely shadow Santana Moss outside, resulting in a down game for the Skins' top wideout after he scored in back-to-back contests. Malcolm Kelly has exhibited little ability to separate, while slot receiver Antwaan Randle El has fallen off the radar entirely...If someone is going to make plays for Washington it's Chris Cooley, who will likely square off with Panthers SS Chris Harris for most of Sunday. Harris can hit, but is making his 2009 debut and has always been shaky in coverage.

Pittsburgh @ Detroit

Willie Parker remains idle with turf toe that threatens to linger for weeks, so Rashard Mendenhall will get his second straight start against a Lions front seven that is still likely down starting DLs Sammie Lee Hill (ankle) and Dewayne White (hamstring), and is shuffling bodies at linebacker, with WLB Ernie Sims on the verge of losing his job. The same unit allowed slow-starting Matt Forte to total 140 yards and a TD in Week 4. The energized Mendenhall is a borderline RB1 in this matchup. Third-down back Mewelde Moore (five touches last week) isn't a serious threat.

Rookie third receiver Mike Wallace will struggle to produce because the Steelers will likely use a run-heavy, power-based attack with more two-tight end and fullback sets than three-wide looks. Aside from Moore, he's the only Pittsburgh skill player worth sitting. Heath Miller is seventh in the NFL in targets among tight ends, slow-footed Lions CBs Anthony Henry and Will James are no match for Santonio Holmes' speed, and Hines Ward leads the team in receiving. Expect the Steelers to be in scoring position often and Ben Roethlisberger to capitalize with at least two TDs.

On pace for 380 touches, Kevin Smith has surpassed expectations as the No. 9 fantasy back through four games. However, Pittsburgh's No. 3 run defense is certain to cram the box with defenders as Daunte Culpepper replaces Matthew Stafford (knee) under center. Smith should get the football 16-19 times, but the Steelers figure to dominate the time of possession battle and prevent the Lions from getting down near the goal. Consider sitting Smith this week, then unleashing him in upcoming favorable matchups at Green Bay, versus St. Louis, and at Seattle.

Culpepper's temporary insertion will adversely affect everyone on the Lions' offense except Calvin Johnson. Johnson scored three TDs in Culpepper's four 2008 starts and as San Diego showed last week, Pittsburgh is vulnerable to the pass. The Steelers have surrendered seven passing scores (sixth most), and Detroit will likely play from behind for much of Sunday's game, requiring Culpepper to throw. While Bryant Johnson is to be avoided against RCB William Gay, Calvin is a must-start against LCB Ike Taylor with SS Troy Polamalu (knee) not due back for another week.

Oakland @ NY Giants

Darren McFadden's knee injury ushers in a two-back system of Michael Bush and Justin Fargas. Despite Bush' superior talent, the Raiders continued their obsession with Fargas in Week 4, giving him 11 touches to Bush's four. Neither is a fantasy option in upcoming matchups with the Giants, Eagles, and Jets, but don't be surprised if Fargas gets more work this Sunday…Despite the loss of WLB Michael Boley (knee surgery), the Giants' run defense will shut down Oakland's ground game. All-purpose stud DE Justin Tuck (shoulder) is getting healthy. New York has held opposing starting running backs to a 2.4 YPC average with no TDs in the last two games, and the Raiders are minus RT Cornell Green (calf) and LG Robert Gallery (fibula).

As to the Oakland passing game, we're at the point where the only question is whether Zach Miller will produce in a given week. Laughably bad games from JaMarcus Russell are the norm, while Louis Murphy leads Raiders receivers with 43 yards per game. One promising sign for Miller: the Giants let Chiefs career blocking TE Sean Ryan go for 58 yards and a TD on five grabs last week. There are holes in the middle of New York's defense following the season-ending loss of SS Kenny Phillips.

Whether or not Eli Manning (foot) plays, expect a decidedly run-heavy mindset from Giants OC Kevin Gilbride. Oakland's secondary has given up just four TDs (fifth fewest among teams that have played four games), and the Giants won't risk Eli aggravating his injury or backup David Carr throwing often against the league's No. 11 pass defense. Their main concern should be getting Brandon Jacobs going. Jacobs is coming off his best effort of the year in terms of per-carry average while showing improved cutting ability and open-field quicks.

Nnamdi Asomugha stays on the right side of the formation and the Giants' receivers move around constantly, so don't worry about the shutdown corner zeroing out Mario Manningham or Steve Smith. However, Manningham typically spend the most time on the left side of the offense, has slowed considerably since his Week 2 explosion (three-catch, 49-yard average with no TDs), and is already losing snaps to Hakeem Nicks. Bench Mario, but keep Smith rolling. He'll play often in the slot, where the Raiders can be exposed, particularly if SS Tyvon Branch (hip) isn't at full speed.

Dallas @ Kansas City

It's no surprise that Marion Barber's quadriceps got "tight" at halftime of last week's loss. Muscle injuries are subject to such behavior. The good news is he still had a 13-point fantasy game, did not aggravate the injury, and turned in a full practice week. Barber is as close to 100% as he's been since Week 2. On Sunday, Dallas' game plan is likely to be run heavy with Roy Williams (ribs) doubtful. Anticipate 17-20 touches for MBIII against a Chiefs defense that's surrendering over one rushing touchdown per game...Felix Jones (knee) is out, but Tashard Choice is a risky fantasy bet. He isn't getting red-zone looks and will likely only serve as Barber's "change of pace."

The Chiefs have plummeted down the pass defense ranks after a solid start. They're giving up two TDs a game through the air and have allowed the third most plays of 40+ yards. Expect Tony Romo's struggles to subside and Miles Austin to come on strong should he replace Williams at split end. Austin has been an inconsistent sub-package wideout, but will play every down if Roy is out and is a serious big-play threat (19.0 YPC, four TDs on 23 career grabs). K.C.'s corners lack the speed to stay with him...With coordinator Jason Garrett facing criticism for using Jason Witten as a blocker more than he should, expect a rebound game as Witten squares off with aging SS Mike Brown.

Joining Santana Moss, Antonio Bryant, and Roy Williams, Dwayne Bowe fell victim to the Corey Webster Curse in Week 4, playing the entire game despite hamstring trouble and catching one ball for 11 yards. Bowe is now off the injury report and will match up often with burnable RCB Mike Jenkins, as the Cowboys don't frequently employ LCB Terence Newman as a shadow corner. Bowe will get right back on track...There's no reason to believe Larry Johnson will, however. He's at least two steps too slow, which simply will not work when the Chiefs can't create holes.

Matt Cassel will be a worthwhile QB2 after the Chiefs' brutal first-half schedule, but he's more likely to take six sacks Sunday than top 200 passing yards. The Cowboys' fantasy defense has been a bust to this point, but Kansas City's porous offensive line will right the ship...If you're dying for a tight end, Sean Ryan is at least worth a brief look. The career blocking specialist's fantasy matchup has improved with Cowboys SS Gerald Sensabaugh (thumb surgery) out indefinitely. Ryan has also caught nine balls for 80 yards and a TD in his last two games.


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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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