Evan Silva

Matchups

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Matchups: Can't Stop the Pack

Friday, September 10, 2010




Miami @ Buffalo

New Bills coach Chan Gailey's design appears to be similar to his predecessor Paul Johnson's at Georgia Tech, using Gailey's recruits. The ground game will be heavily featured, attempting to set up occasional long balls. C.J. Spiller and some combo of Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch are Jonathan Dwyer. Lee Evans is Demaryius Thomas. ... Either way, you'll want to start Spiller, who was announced as Buffalo's starting tailback on Wednesday. The matchup is difficult, but if Gailey has his way (and Buffalo doesn't fall too far behind early) Spiller will get the rock 20-plus times. He has the moves to elude Miami's stout front seven.

Jackson, playing through a fractured hand, and Lynch, coming off an ankle injury and five-carry, two-yard preseason, will take backseats to Spiller. They're not fantasy options until they earn legitimate roles. ... If Evans is Thomas and Spiller is Dwyer, Trent Edwards is Josh Nesbitt. If you don't know who Nesbitt is, I'll tell you this: He doesn't throw much. ... Steve Johnson, Roscoe Parrish, and TE Jonathan Stupar aren't appealing, but Evans is with the demotion of Dolphins CB Sean Smith and running mate Vontae Davis' groin injury. Evans is an underrated WR3 start in non-PPR.

Buffalo ranked 30th in run defense last year. Now a transitioning unit, it won't be much better. According to Pro Football Focus, Marcus Stroud is among the league's poorest linemen in run defense, and he's now been forced to play end in Buffalo's new 3-4. The nose tackle is project rookie Torrell Troup, taking the big step up from C-USA. Ronnie Brown is a recommended RB2, and Ricky Williams is a strong flex. ... Avoid Dolphins tight ends. Anthony Fasano ranked 26th in fantasy points at the position in 2009, and will likely be run blocking more often than not.

Even with Rookie of the Year runner-up Jairus Byrd (groin) questionable, the Bills field one of the game's most talented secondaries. Chad Henne looked worse than mediocre in the preseason, completing 47 percent of his passes for an awful 5.1 yards-per-attempt average. This won't be his breakout game. ... Brandon Marshall will remain a target monster in Miami. Fasano will be blocking, fellow wideout Brian Hartline had a lackluster camp, and Davone Bess isn't a playmaker.

Carolina @ NY Giants

The Giants are doing damage control after demoting Brandon Jacobs, but all their actions point to Ahmad Bradshaw taking over as the feature back. While Jacobs remains the favorite for goal-line work, he played just four snaps and went touch-less in the preseason finale, when the G-Men used their first-string offense more than any team in the league. The undersized Carolina front is minus weak-side 'backer Thomas Davis (knee) and lost Julius Peppers this spring, presenting a terrific matchup for Bradshaw as a strong RB2. Jacobs is a flex option only in TD-heavy leagues.

Carolina ranked fourth in the NFL in 2009 pass defense, and led the league this preseason. The Giants' game plan will be run heavy, making Eli Manning barely a QB1 option. Don't expect a high number of pass attempts, which will also be a drain on Kevin Boss. ... The Panthers play the pass well collectively, but don't have a true shutdown corner. As noted by Pro Football Focus, CBs Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall were both average (Marshall a bit better) in coverage last season. Carolina is also breaking in a new starting free safety in Sherrod Martin. Hakeem Nicks remains a quality WR2, and Steve Smith is, as always, a safe bet for six-plus catches.

The loss of mauling Panthers RT Jeff Otah (knee) is a run-blocking concern at first glance, but note that Carolina averaged 183 rushing yards a game in replacement Geoff Schwartz's three 2009 starts. New York's run defense will be improved, but DeAngelo Williams is a must-start, and Jonathan Stewart should get 13-15 touches as a flex play with upside. The Panthers have made no bones about it: They will run relentlessly with QB Matt Moore coming off a poor preseason.

Carolina WR Steve Smith enters the game with a chip on his shoulder, blaming Giants S Michael Johnson for the play that fractured his arm in Week 17 last year. An angry Smitty is as dangerous as any wideout in football, and the Giants are banged up in the back (CB Corey Webster - groin, CB Aaron Ross - plantar fasciitis, SS Kenny Phillips - knee). ... Dwayne Jarrett beat out rookie Brandon LaFell for No. 2 receiver duties in Panthers camp. Like Muhsin Muhammad before him, Jarrett will be a blocker first, spectator second. He's a pass catcher somewhere down the line.

4:15PM ET Games

Green Bay @ Philadelphia

Mike Singletary wished he had it. Mike McCarthy does: An offense capable of exerting its will on defenses. For those who didn't watch the second half of last year's Packer season, Sunday will be Jermichael Finley's coming-out party. A 6'5" rocked-up receiver who plays like a fleet-of-foot 6'9" forward, Finley faces off with an Eagles defense annually among the NFL's worst in tight end coverage. Finley has replaced Donald Driver as Aaron Rodgers' favorite down-the-middle target.

While Finley dominates the seams, Greg Jennings will be featured over the top. The Eagles are willing to single-cover wideouts to execute their blitz schemes. Expect Asante Samuel and Joselio Hanson to line up on Driver, with RCB Ellis Hobbs attempting to contain LWR Jennings. A bomb or three is in the offing. ... Brandon Jackson's in-camp improvement so convinced the coaching staff his light has flipped on that they kept just two backs on the active roster. You can't sit Ryan Grant, but he'll be a great sell-high candidate if he starts hot. Jackson has earned more work.

Our hopes remain high, but Kevin Kolb's preseason left much to be desired, exhibiting happy feet in the pocket and shaky confidence. He'll have to throw plenty against a Green Bay defense that led the NFL in run stoppage a year ago, but there are better QB1 starts out there. ... As a fourth option in the passing game at best, Jeremy Maclin is setup to disappoint until Kolb's problems are corrected. DeSean Jackson and Brent Celek, going away, are the best bets for catches, yardage, and touchdowns. Maclin is also "competing" for targets with Jason Avant and LeSean McCoy.

As with Maclin, owners should be wary of considering McCoy a reliable RB2. The Eagles' interior line of Nick Cole, Jamaal Jackson, and Todd Herremans didn't begin practicing together until just this week, and McCoy already struggled to run inside the tackles with any decisiveness. McCoy is a must-play in PPR leagues, but Philadelphia will have a very hard time winning the trench battle against Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji, and Cullen Jenkins. He'll also lose goal-line carries to Mike Bell.

Arizona at St. Louis

Rejuvenated after offseason back surgery, Steven Jackson displayed improved power and burst in the preseason, and is ready for a full workload against an Arizona defense that looks shaky against the run. Gone are ILBs Karlos Dansby and Gerald Hayes (back, PUP), replaced by rookie Daryl Washington and journeyman Paris Lenon. With Sam Bradford looking like the real deal (21 of his last 28 for 257 yards, three TDs, and zero picks), S-Jax looks poised for a career-best year. As Pro Football Focus also notes, St. Louis' offensive line is much better than given credit for.

The Rams' top three receivers will likely shape up as follows: split end Laurent Robinson, slot man Danny Amendola, flanker Mark Clayton. If Bradford plays as he showed capable in preseason, a sleeper will emerge. Though they're all worth end-of-the-bench roster spots, deep threat Robinson is the probable favorite to lead St. Louis in receiving. None of the three is worth using against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and company, but Robinson is the best bet to accrue WR3 value.

Concern about his QB situation is warranted, but Larry Fitzgerald is likely to exceed expectations. He'll be Derek Anderson's first read on 75-plus percent of passing plays, and his monster "catch radius" will atone for D.A.'s wildness. Steve Breaston and Early Doucet are hurt most. Expect the secondary receivers' production to be about equal by season's end. Fitzgerald, fully healed from his knee sprain, is a high-end WR1 play on Sunday. St. Louis had the NFL's second-worst pass defense in preseason, and Fitz has a touchdown in each of his last three meetings with the team.

Beanie Wells' knee injury is said to be just a bruise, but the team expressed worry about his status after another missed practice Thursday. He'll be a must-start RB2 if he's active, but this is going to be a game-time decision. ... Cardinals starter Tim Hightower does remain the favorite for goal-line carries and passing-down work. He's a viable flex in PPR formats regardless of Wells' Sunday status. The Cards are likely to take a run-first approach, providing both backs with plenty of touches. If Wells is out, Hightower becomes a must-start. ... Though St. Louis is susceptible to the pass, Anderson is only worth a brief look in two-QB leagues. His post-2007 production is JaMarcus Russell-esque.


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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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