Evan Silva


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Matchups: Donnie Ball is Back

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Houston @ Cincinnati

No team is as potent at stopping No. 1 wideouts as the Bengals. Braylon Edwards (0-0), Derrick Mason (0-0), Santonio Holmes (1-18), Greg Jennings (0-0), and Brandon Marshall (4-27) have all been minimized by DC Mike Zimmer's scheme. Andre Johnson is a different animal, and torched RCB Leon Hall for 143 yards on 11 grabs in their last meeting. The No. 3 overall fantasy receiver, A.J. can never be benched...Worry more about Kevin Walter, who is losing targets to TE Owen Daniels at a rapid rate. In the last two weeks, Daniels has had 15 balls thrown his way to Walter's nine.

Matt Schaub's matchup looks difficult on paper against a Cincy pass defense that's yielded five scores all year. But the Bengals allow a mediocre 7.0 YPA (15th in NFL) and no team gives up more big plays through the air (20 gains of 20+ yards). The conditions will also be favorable, with only light wind expected at Paul Brown Stadium, lots of sun, and temps in the 50s. Look for 38-42 throws from Schaub, giving him considerable upside...While the pass-heavy offense makes Steve Slaton an every-week starter in PPR leagues, don't expect him to have success on the ground.

It hurts to say, but Cedric Benson is an elite NFL back. His power and speed have made a full 180 from his Bear days. Houston's run defense is improved of late, but still ranks 26th overall with a league-high nine TDs surrendered. He's easily a top-five RB1 in Week 6...While Carson Palmer still hasn't put together a complete game, doing most of his damage in crunch time, this matchup provides an opportunity to play well for four quarters. The Texans bring no heat (fourth-fewest in sacks), and top CB Jacques Reeves (leg, finger) still hasn't rejoined the starting lineup.

Good weather and skill player talent on both sides equate to a high-scoring affair, boding well for wideouts. Chad Ochocinco, the No. 6 fantasy receiver, will square off with Texans RCB Dunta Robinson while Houston's corner depth is tested by a blend of Laveranues Coles, Chris Henry, and Andre Caldwell. Of those three, Caldwell has emerged as the receiver to own. He only plays in three-wideout sets, but the Bengals use them plenty of those because of their tight end deficiencies.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh

Word out of Pittsburgh is that Rashard Mendenhall will remain the lead back when Willie Parker (turf toe) returns. The team already conceded that Parker isn't 100% by inserting a fiber plate into his shoe. Mendenhall has a decisive edge in productivity, receiving skill, blitz-pickup ability, future value to the franchise, and health. This one's a no-brainer for the coaching staff; Mendenhall will dominate the backfield against Cleveland's last-ranked run defense and beyond...Mewelde Moore is surprisingly owned in most leagues, but is strictly a third-down back with no bigger role coming.

A 30% chance of showers at Heinz Field won't stop Ben Roethlisberger. Fantasy's No. 3 QB is an every-week starter thanks to improved protection (41-sack pace after taking 46 last year in a run-based offense) and a far more aggressive attack. The Browns' defensive strength is in coverage, but it surrenders plenty of big plays (15 of 20+ yards) and only eight teams have fewer sacks...Santonio Holmes' numbers are down because he runs so many clearing routes down the sideline. They open things up for Heath Miller (No. 7 fantasy TE) and Hines Ward (No. 11 WR).

Derek Anderson: meet a smoking-hot James Harrison. Pittsburgh's right outside linebacker and 2008's Defensive POY has 18 tackles and six sacks in his last three games, with a forced fumble in all but one this season. Anderson isn't a good bet to last four quarters, either because of injury or benching...Jamal Lewis' 31-carry, 117-yard Week 5 performance brought the Jerome Harrison hype train to a screeching halt. Lewis, 30, will undoubtedly break down if he continues to be used in such a manner. He'll also be a poor bet to top 50 yards against the AFC's No. 1 run defense.

How about the position Browns shot callers put promising but raw Mohamed Massaquoi in? With Braylon Edwards traded away for a bucket of mediocrity, the rookie will see a safety over the top for the rest of the year after coming to Cleveland as an underclassman draft pick. It's a terribly unfair situation...The point spread in this one is 14. With SS Troy Polamalu back from his knee injury, give me the Steelers all day long.

Kansas City @ Washington

In another game I'd advise to bet on, the Redskins are favored to win by six points Sunday. It's nice to play at home, but boos are likely to be more plentiful than Redskins scores at FedEx Field. Santana Moss is Washington's lone big-play threat and has a good on-paper matchup against a slow-footed K.C. secondary, but Jason Campbell won't have time to connect deep with former undrafted free agent Stephon Heyer on his blind side due to LT Chris Samuels' (spine) absence. The Skins' offense will be in especially bad shape if Chris Cooley is used as Heyer's "help" blocker more than he runs routes.

Hopefully, you've already sold "high" on Clinton Portis. He scored twice in Week 5 to finish with a productive fantasy game, but did not have a good real game, generating 3.0 YPC and getting thrown for a safety. His long run was seven yards. He has no upside, even in this matchup...The weather in D.C. calls for a 40% chance of rain and up to 20 MPH winds. It's not a huge concern for underneath receivers, but you don't want to use Antwaan Randle El or Malcolm Kelly anyway. Cooley, assuming he isn't forgotten in the passing game, is the Skins' best bet for catches.

The Chiefs intend to increase their use of the no-huddle offense. It's a very good idea, especially in this matchup. An up-tempo attack would keep heavyweight Skins DT Albert Haynesworth off the field for longer stretches and play to Matt Cassel's strengths in the shotgun. It would also sap Larry Johnson's usage, as he doesn't pick up blitzers or run pass routes well enough to be an every-down player. Play-to-play personnel change is more difficult in a no-huddle system. Should coach Todd Haley follow through with the plan, Jamaal Charles could end up as the primary back.

Windy, potentially slippery conditions could limit the passing-game production on both sides, but Dwayne Bowe's matchup is ripe for the picking. Kansas City's split end will spend most of his time against Redskins RCB DeAngelo Hall, who's been Washington's weakest corner all year. Hall's gambling style results in big plays for the opponent. Expect 70-80 yards and score from Bowe on Sunday.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay

Much more was expected from DeAngelo Williams last week, but the Redskins' front seven finally came to play and Jonathan Stewart vultured a touchdown. This matchup, however, sets up well for both backs to be worth fantasy starts. Size-deficient Tampa ranks 28th against the run and is a mismatch up front for Carolina's mauling front five...Jake Delhomme also has a favorable matchup, but the No. 30 overall fantasy QB simply isn't playing well enough for consideration.

Sunday's forecast at Raymond James Stadium calls for 70-degree temps and zero chance of precipitation. The Bucs allow more yards per pass attempt (9.1) than any team in the league, and their 12 touchdowns against are third most. Steve Smith lit up RCB Ronde Barber for an average of seven catches for 115 yards with one score in their two 2008 meetings. Smith's long overdue second big game of the year should be at hand...Despite a somewhat favorable matchup with LCB Aqib Talib, keep Muhsin Muhammad and his 9.4 yards-per-catch average benched.

Eight-man fronts will be the norm against Tampa's offense as long as Josh Johnson is under center, but you may as well use Carnell Williams against weak font sevens. While Cadillac will play himself hurt again soon enough, Carolina is 30th against the run with only Cleveland and Houston allowing higher YPC averages...Derrick Ward again significantly out-produced Williams in Week 5 (37 yards on six touches to Caddy's 16 yards on 13 opportunities), but the Bucs are using Williams as a clear-cut lead back. Ward is only playing every third series.

Kellen Winslow's first game with Johnson was a clunker, but he was a target monster in Week 5, racking up 102 yards and two TDs on a team-high nine catches. On Wednesday, playcaller Greg Olson touted Winslow as the team's No. 1 passing-game option. Winslow is rarely asked to block in Olson's scheme, and his short-to-intermediate routes perfectly suit Johnson's mediocre arm. He'll likely be inconsistent, but is an every-week start...Keep Antonio Bryant and Michael Clayton on benches. Bryant's knee issues have become chronic, while Clayton's starting job is in doubt.

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