Evan Silva


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Matchups: Donnie Ball is Back

Thursday, October 15, 2009

As the October 20 deadline approaches, Week 6 is the final opportunity for organizations to "showcase" players for trades. Last year's biggest deal was the Cowboys' acquisition of Roy Williams on the day of the deadline. Braylon Edwards' move to the Jets will probably go down as 2009's most high-profile in-season trade, but here are some skill players that may be on the block due to expiring contracts and/or talent behind them on the depth chart:

1. Sinorice Moss - In the last year of his rookie deal and likely to lose return duties to Domenik Hixon. There were strong indications this preseason that Moss was on the trade block. He could appeal to teams in need of speed on offense, especially in the slot.

2. Justin Fargas - Contract expires after 2010, and the Raiders can roll with Michael Bush and Gary Russell at tailback until Darren McFadden (knee) returns. Fargas is 29, but versed in the zone-blocking scheme and blitz pickup. The Texans are a good fit on paper.

3. Roscoe Parrish - Buffalo has tried pawning Parrish off for a few years now and is facing another lost season. Like Moss, he is a diminutive slot receiver with special teams value.

4. Donald Driver - Still playing at a high level, but only signed through 2010 and the Packers need a way to get Jordy Nelson and James Jones more snaps. GM Ted Thompson fields all trade calls.

5. Byron Leftwich - Obviously can't be "showcased" as the Bucs' No. 3 emergency quarterback, but could generate interest as a serviceable, strong-armed backup.

6. Joshua Cribbs - Return man wants a new contract that the Browns refuse to give him. Cleveland has already thrown in the towel on the season, and the Dolphins, Chiefs, and Colts are showing interest.

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Speaking of matchups, let's get cracking...

1:00PM ET Games

St. Louis @ Jacksonville

Mike Sims-Walker's late scratch was a death sentence for the Jags in Week 5. Slow-legged Torry Holt was forced into the top receiver role, with usual slot man Mike Thomas moving outside. It removed playmaking ability from the field and plays from OC Dirk Koetter's game plan. Sims-Walker's return in a home game versus a Rams team juggling bodies in the secondary should rejuvenate Jacksonville's attack. Sims-Walker needs to be immediately reinserted into fantasy lineups as he goes against rookie RCB Brandon Fletcher, who makes his second career start.

Maurice Jones-Drew will bounce back big from two slow weeks (97 yards, one TD total) with St. Louis down DT Gary Gibson (fractured ankle) and practice body-type LaJuan Ramsey thrust onto the first unit...Holt has a bone to pick against his old team, but is someone to avoid with Rams top CB Ronald Bartell likely to shadow him all over the field. Bartell isn't a shutdown corner, but tackles well and Holt does very little after the catch...David Garrard will benefit from Sims-Walker's return more than any Jaguar. The conditions (mid-70s, sun, light wind) will also work in Garrard's favor.

Donnie Avery's ludicrous "stanky leg" TD dance with the Rams down 31-9 last week aside, he is a viable WR2 this Sunday. "Donnie Football" comes off his best game of the year (5-87-1) and saw three targets from Marc Bulger after the Rams' QB entered for the final two possessions...Bulger, who rejoins the starting lineup full time after a two-week rotator cuff injury, is worth considering in two-QB leagues. The Jags have the weakest pass rush in the NFL (four sacks in five games), have surrendered the fourth-most passing touchdowns (11), and might be without top CB Rashean Mathis (hip).

The Jags may open Sunday's game with a "stacked box" to stop Steven Jackson, but an awful secondary always requires coordinator Mel Tucker to resort to nickel looks as games progress. Jackson, fourth in the NFL in yards from scrimmage, is a good bet to score for the first time this year. It doesn't hurt that Jaguars ILBs Justin Durant (hip) and Clint Ingram (ankle) are dealing with injuries...Keenan Burton lacks separation skills and is clearly not an NFL wideout. He's averaging two catches for 26 yards per game since Laurent Robinson's season-ending Week 2 injury.

Baltimore @ Minnesota

The Vikings went conservative after jumping out to a big early lead in Week 5 against St. Louis, limiting Bernard Berrian's (3-39) numbers. Expect a far closer game Sunday, and Berrian to get back on track. He'll primarily square off with Ravens RCB Domonique Foxworth, who is on the verge of losing his starting job to small-school rookie Lardarius Webb. Berrian's deep speed is accentuated on the Metrodome turf...Sidney Rice is also worth consideration in leagues that start a WR3. A red-zone star, Rice is 6'4" and Baltimore has been exploited by big wideouts all year.

Adrian Peterson's matchup seems poor, but owners can note that Cedric Benson dropped 136 yards and a score on Baltimore last week. A.P. is clearly a superior back...Brett Favre resumes QB2 status despite facing the Ravens' seventh-worst pass defense. Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie, who struggles with speed rushers, faces All-Pro OLB/DE Terrell Suggs. Favre will complete a few deep balls as Baltimore "cheats" to stop Peterson, but will be hurried all day...The Ravens defend the slot poorly, so consider Percy Harvin (shoulder) a strong WR3 if he plays, which is likely.

Willis McGahee's role will remain tiny Sunday. The Vikes' heavy front four is more susceptible to quick, scatback types like Ray Rice than "grinders" like McGahee. Rice probably won't find the end zone, but is the No. 6 overall RB in standard leagues and nearly impossible to bench in any matchup. He's on pace for 1,831 total yards...Minnesota's pass defense is coming back to earth. Now ranked 18th overall while giving up 17 plays of 20+ yards (fifth most), the Vikes aren't a tough enough matchup to bench Joe Flacco, particularly in the dome. Expect 220 yards and two TDs.

The Bengals held Derrick Mason target-less with bracket coverage in Week 5, begging the other Ravens to beat them. Rice nearly did, but ultimately fell short. This week, Pro Bowl shadow CB Antoine Winfield will be assigned to Mason. It severely limits Mason's upside because Winfield is such a sure tackler...Filling in for Jared Gaither (neck), Ravens LT Michael Oher stoned red-hot Bengals RE Antwan Odom last Sunday. Oher, perhaps the league's best rookie so far, has the athleticism and feet to contain Jared Allen. That will free up Todd Heap to run more pass routes.

Detroit @ Green Bay

New OT Mark Tauscher won't contribute for a few more weeks, but Aaron Rodgers' protection is likely to improve if only because of the opponent. Lions RE Dewayne White is still hobbled by a hamstring pull, and LE Cliff Avril has lost his starting job. Packers LT Chad Clifton, back from a high ankle sprain, should have no trouble containing White's sluggish replacement, Turk McBride. Expect Rodgers to have his biggest game so far against a Lions pass defense surrendering more touchdowns passes (15) and a higher quarterback rating (119.7) than any team in the league.

The bye week worked wonders for Ryan Grant in '08. He averaged a measly 3.38 YPC with one TD before Green Bay's Week 8 Sunday-off last season, and 4.22 YPC with four scores after it. The Packers' bye came earlier (Week 5) this year, and Grant has been a stronger winter runner ever since coming over from the Giants in 2007. The Lions allow 4.9 yards a carry and a rushing TD per game...Jermichael Finley was a hot waiver pickup after his 128-yard outburst against the Vikings two weeks ago, but have guarded expectations. He plays almost strictly in passing situations.

Daunte Culpepper, who gets another start with Matthew Stafford still nursing a sprained knee, showed improved athleticism and aggressiveness in Week 5 against Pittsburgh. However, he did most of his damage while playing from behind, took seven sacks, caused an ill-advised intentional grounding penalty, and fumbled three times. Expect the Lions to rely heavily on the ground game at chilly Lambeau Field. With Calvin Johnson (knee) likely out, career backups Dennis Northcutt and Bryant Johnson will be Detroit's starting wideouts. This isn't a recipe for passing success.

If Detroit is to move the ball through the air, fast-improving rookie TE Brandon Pettigrew may be Culpepper's main target. While LCB Charles Woodson shuts down Northcutt and RCB Al Harris tries to hang with Johnson, Pettigrew will mostly deal with LB Brandon Chillar and SS Atari Bigby (knee), who's been out over a month. Culpepper has targeted Pettigrew 11 times since replacing Stafford late in Week 4. Look for a short-field game plan from Lions playcaller Scott Linehan as Johnson and Northcutt struggle to beat Green Bay's zone. Pettigrew can exploit the soft spots.

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