Evan Silva


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Matchups: Donnie Ball is Back

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tennessee @ New England

The Pats' game plan for Sunday seems obvious enough. With Tennessee down CB Nick Harper and nickel back Vincent Fuller indefinitely due to broken arms, and RCB Cortland Finnegan (hamstring) clearly not 100 percent, New England can flood the field with wideouts and pass the Titans to death. Tennessee is so desperate for defensive back bodies that it signed Roderick Hood on Thursday and will likely put him on the field immediately. The other options are practice squad type Cary Williams, and badly-struggling rookies Jason McCourty and Ryan Mouton.

In other words, Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and Wes Welker are all must-starts against the NFL's No. 31 pass defense...However, if the Pats use the spread attack, a heavy rotation/committee of running backs is likely. Kevin Faulk is usually the primary "spread back," while Week 5 lead man Sammy Morris and Laurence Maroney can step in occasionally. This isn't the week to invest in a New England runner because they'll probably all see action and cancel each other out.

Chris Johnson's 11-touch Week 5 outing was painful considering it came against a Colts defense he should've owned. The Titans simply fell behind early and abandoned the run game. Johnson is an every-week starter, but the Patriots have the passing-game tools to pull off similarly efficient scoring. Be satisfied if Johnson tops 100 total yards and scores once...C.J. owners can at least be confident that LenDale White won't see the field. White does not play when the Titans are trailing, or when the game is close. And you can bet they won't have a lead often Sunday.

The swarming play of new Pats FS Brandon McGowan makes all three of the Titans' tight ends non-options. McGowan has helped hold Tony Gonzalez, Todd Heap, and Tony Scheffler all under 46 yards in the last three weeks...Kenny Britt and Justin Gage continue to rotate and cancel each other out from a fantasy perspective. Nate Washington is the only every-down receiver of the group, but remains too inconsistent to use as more than a desperate WR3.

Sunday Night Football

Chicago @ Atlanta

The Bears return from a bye to play at the Georgia Dome. As the weather gets colder, you'll notice that this matchup column will tout players in domed games. The Falcons are 22nd against the pass and 24th against the run, so it's easy to like any start-able Bears skill player...During the off week, OC Ron Turner went back to watch tape of Chicago's first four games and emerged with a renewed committment to Greg Olsen. Desmond Clark, healthy after an early-season rib injury, will help LT Orlando Pace block Falcons RE John Abraham while Olsen burns down the seams.

Turner has adjusted his offense to make it more "quarterback-friendly," helping Jay Cutler to become a touchdown machine. He has eight all-purpose TDs in his last three games...LCB Brian Williams won't sit out, but was a late addition to the Falcons' injury report with an "eye issue." Devin Hester is already a fine WR2/3, and the corner he'll mostly be covered by Sunday night has vision problems...Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett continue to rotate evenly. Expect Matt Forte to run successfully and often in this one, crushing Knox and Bennett's upsides. They need pass-heavy game plans to matter.

Michael Turner has a difficult matchup against Chicago's No. 9 run defense and will miss bruising FB Ovie Mughelli (calf), but can't possibly be benched. Atlanta's mauling, built-for-power front five should open holes against the Bears' undersized line...Chicago's secondary is tough (6.6 YPA against, one TD per game allowed), but Matt Ryan showed last week that he is too good to sit against quality defenses. The every-week fantasy starter dropped 329 yards and three all-purpose touchdowns on a 49ers club that was high in the pass defense ranks coming in.

Roddy White will match up often with Bears LCB Charles Tillman. Tillman is solid in all areas, but possesses significantly less speed than Atlanta's deep threat. White, who proved last week that he is not mailing it in after a $48 million contract extension, should have no trouble getting behind him...Michael Jenkins will go against Zackary Bowman, but is too slow and low on Ryan's list of options for valuable production...Tony Gonzalez has predictably slowed down since a hot start, but is always a good play against a Cover 2 scheme. Lots of soft spots to settle into.

Monday Night Football

Denver @ San Diego

Regular readers of this column and Rotoworld's weekly Running Back Report know that these are not the places to come for positive outlooks on LaDainian Tomlinson. Color me surprised if he tops 50 yards against the NFL's No. 6 run defense. Tomlinson simply can't play anymore...This matchup again sets up for San Diego to resort to the pass and drop any hint of a power rushing attack. Darren Sproles is too risky to rely on in fantasy leagues, but look for this to be the week he retakes the Chargers' featured back role.

Vincent Jackson averages 94 yards a game and has become a complete receiver. He dominates at all three levels, blocks well, and is an every-week starter in fantasy...Assuming the Bolts do go pass heavy (the approach with which their offense runs best), the Broncos will have to decide whether to put brackets on Jackson or Antonio Gates, sacrificing pass rushers. Gates averages six catches for 88 yards a game...Chris Chambers' average is 18 yards a game. He should be benched even when the Chargers have favorable matchups, which this isn't.

The Chargers will stand pat with the trade deadline looming in hopes that DL Travis Johnson, who's been injured since his pre-Week 1 trade from the Texans, can cure the team's run defense woes. It's just unlikely. Johnson has terrific size and can play all four positions on the line, but Houston was never potent against the run with Johnson at nose tackle. San Diego is currently 27th in run defense, allowing 1.5 rushing touchdowns per game. Knowshon Moreno will see 20 touches Sunday despite Correll Buckhalter's (ankle) return. He's a high-end RB2 play.

Eddie Royal's 10-catch Week 5 game was promising, but we don't have any idea if he'll remain a fixture in the passing offense going forward. He was a decoy leading up to the upset of New England, and benefited from Kyle Orton easily setting his season-high for pass attempts (48). Expect a run-first game plan from playcaller Josh McDaniels, and Royal to resume mediocrity...Brandon Marshall has had the Chargers' number in all three of his pro seasons. There's no reason to think that will change Sunday for fantasy's No. 4 overall wide receiver, particularly with 73-degree weather, light wind, and hardly any chance of rain in the forecast for Qualcomm Stadium.

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

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