Evan Silva


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Matchups: Cancel Out Cutler

Friday, September 17, 2010

Jacksonville @ San Diego

This game sets up well for the Chargers' passing game. The Jags let Kyle Orton throw for 295 yards in Week 1, benched CB Derek Cox, and now list SS Anthony Smith as questionable with a foot injury. After trying just one deep ball against K.C. last Monday night, Philip Rivers should be able to get vertical on one of the NFL's poorest secondaries. Deep threat Malcom Floyd is likely to retake "No. 1 receiver" duties from possession man Legedu Naanee. Antonio Gates remains a top-two tight end play. Smith likely would be Gates' main cover man if he's available to play.

Continued poor run blocking didn't help, but Ryan Mathews appeared to have the first-game jitters in Week 1. He fumbled at the end of his game-best 15-yard run, before being replaced by two-minute back Darren Sproles in crunch time with the Chargers battling back from a two-touchdown deficit against Kansas City. Mathews is too good a talent for this to keep up. Jacksonville's run defense isn't bad, but Mathews needs to stay in lineups. The Bolts are going to put up points.

It should come as no surprise that David Garrard (three TDs, no INTs) came to play in the Jags' opener considering his insane home-away splits. Garrard is always much better at Jacksonville Municipal Stadium. He's on the road again, so expect a drop in production. ... The Jags decided to throw away from Champ Bailey in Week 1, hurting Mike Sims-Walker's chances for even a respectable fantasy day. He went catch-less, while Mike Thomas benefited on the opposite side for 89 yards on six grabs. The split end Sims-Walker should see RCB Antoine Cason for the majority of Sunday's game. Cason is a solid young player, but obviously not in Bailey's league.

Avoid Thomas as he matches up with LCB Quentin Jammer. A sure tackler and underrated cover man, Jammer was one of the main reasons for Dwayne Bowe's one-catch Week 1. .... Maurice Jones-Drew wasn't quite as explosive against Denver, but it's not like you can sit him. San Diego surrendered 135 yards and a touchdown on the ground to Kansas City. ... TE Marcedes Lewis caught a pair of touchdowns in the opener, but had just 31 yards. Perhaps he's the favorite for red-zone catches in Jacksonville, though Sims-Walker's eventual reemergence will change that.

New England @ NY Jets

Is Randy Moss too risky? Though he'll be shadowed by Darrelle Revis, the cornerback's body isn't ready yet for the NFL grind. He came up lame with hamstring "tightness" in Thursday's practice, and any impairment could impact greatly his matchup with the best vertical receiver in history. Get Moss going. ... Tom Brady is another must-start, perhaps even more so than Moss. Brady loves to exploit matchups, and will pick apart rookie Kyle Wilson and Antonio Cromartie even if Revis is 100 percent. Cromartie is easily beaten when frustrated, and the slot corner Wilson will be no match for a healthy Wes Welker inside. As noted by The Football Scientist K.C. Joyner, Wilson and Cromartie combined to allow 189 yards worth of completions and penalties in Week 1.

Looking for a sleeper wideout? How about Brandon Tate, who's ahead of Julian Edelman on the depth chart and will square off with Cromartie for most of Sunday. ... Behind Moss and Welker, rookie TE Rob Gronkowski is quietly the third best bet for TDs on New England's roster. A fixture in goal-to-go sets, Gronkowski was in for 15-of-16 red-zone snaps in Week 1 and has now scored five times in his last four games, dating back to preseason. He's worth a look in TD-only leagues. ... Avoid Fred Taylor, who popped up this week's injury report with a toe problem. His ceiling is about 15 carries, and the Jets held Ray Rice to 43 measly yards on 21 Week 1 totes (2.0 YPC).

It's back to the drawing board for Rex Ryan. With zero threat of a pass game, the Jets will have to play ball-control offense -- at least until Santonio Holmes returns -- because with the way Mark Sanchez is playing they have no chance to mount a comeback if they fall behind. With the Pats' defense looking surprisingly stout (at least until Week 1 garbage time), Dustin Keller, Jerricho Cotchery, and Braylon Edwards should all be benched. Sanchez isn't even a top-24 fantasy QB.

It was expected that rookie LCB Devin McCourty would be the weak spot in New England's pass defense. Not so. RCB Darius Butler was burned for the majority of Chad Ochocinco's 12-159-1 line in Week 1, including Ocho's 28-yard score. Sanchez probably won't capitalize, but this is a matchup situation to keep in mind. ... Shonn Greene was not only significantly out-produced by LaDainian Tomlinson in Week 1, Greene got himself benched for nearly two full quarters with two first-half fumbles. He returned in the fourth, only to drop an easy pass. The Patriots held Cedric Benson to 43 yards on 15 carries (2.87 YPC) in the opener, making this a difficult matchup for a struggling player. Greene is a mere flex option. Tomlinson is currently the better bet for touches.

Sunday Night Football

NY Giants @ Indianapolis

You already knew Dallas Clark's 11-catch opener wasn't a fluke. Austin Collie wasn't either. With pass protection reaching new lows in Indy, Peyton Manning will have to rely on his possession receivers more than ever. Not only did Collie burn Houston relentlessly in the slot (12 targets, 11 catches), he busted a zone coverage for a fourth-quarter 73-yard score, outracing Bernard Pollard to the house. Collie's snaps are not threatened by Anthony Gonzalez (already hurt), and he'll regularly be a better week-to-week fantasy bet than Pierre Garcon. Think 2004 Brandon Stokley (68/1,077/10, No. 11 fantasy receiver). The Colts' protection issues aren't going to fix themselves.

Of course, Reggie Wayne will still get his because Indy can't run block either, and will have to go pass happy yet again. Week 2 offers a favorable matchup for Wayne. The Giants used Terrell Thomas on Carolina's Steve Smith for the majority of the opener, and Smitty worked Thomas for 75 yards and a TD on five grabs. Split ends who occasionally move to the slot, Wayne and Smith play identical positions. Smith, by the way, scored his 19-yard Week 1 TD on a slot route vs. Thomas. Look for more of that for Wayne in Week 2. ... Consider benching Joseph Addai. The Giants' run defense is back, holding Carolina's RBs to 3.5 YPC and no touchdowns last week.

The Texans provided a blueprint to whip the Colts in Week 1, and the Giants have personnel to do something similar. Though Ahmad Bradshaw saw 20 touches to Brandon Jacobs' 14 last week, it is Jacobs who will present more problems for Indy's undersized and movable front seven. Also the favorite for goal-line carries, look for Jacobs to get into the end zone on Sunday night. ... Bradshaw is still worth using as a flex. He'll consistently get the ball 16-18 times per game this season as New York's lead back. Texans rushers Arian Foster and Steve Slaton combined for an otherworldly 267 yards on 40 touches (6.7 average) in the opener, to go with three touchdowns.

With a run-first game plan likely, Eli Manning isn't a great QB1. Indy's pass defense is a strength, even with SS Bob Sanders (biceps) out. Don't expect more than 30 or so pass attempts from Eli in this one. ... Steve Smith remains a worthwhile WR2, but Hakeem Nicks (ankle) is a full-blown game-time decision. Considering the late start, Nicks is worth relying on in fantasy leagues if and only if owners have Mario Manningham (No. 2 on the depth chart at split end) in reserve. If Nicks is scratched, plug Manningham into your lineup as a respectable WR2/3. Giants receivers should see more balls, especially in the red zone, with Kevin Boss (concussion) inactive.

Monday Night Football

New Orleans @ San Francisco

The 49ers really blew it in Week 1. Apparently looking past the Seahawks toward this game, San Francisco was pummeled 31-6. Now with just three healthy corners on the roster (Will James -- ankle -- and Phillip Adams – hamstring are hurt), the Niners are primed for Drew Brees to pick apart. Brees and Marques Colston couldn't be better fantasy bets. ... Devery Henderson played 41 snaps compared to Robert Meachem's 25 last Thursday night. Meachem is a far superior all-around talent, but this is a dangerous fantasy situation. Your guess is as good as ours as to which receiver will out-produce the other. Lance Moore's involvement makes it even less clear.

The Saints took a pass-crazy approach in their opener to avoid Minnesota's run-tough defense. Reggie Bush was the primary back throughout the first half, racking up five catches. San Francisco's front seven is nearly as stout as the Vikings'. Expect a similar approach from Sean Payton's club. The Saints' backfield is more matchup-based than any in the league. ... Despite Bush's first-half role in Week 1, Pierre Thomas more than tripled Bush's amount of touches. Thomas has emerged as the hands-down favorite for goal-line carries, and the Saints will be in scoring position plenty all season no matter their opponent. Lock P.T. in as an RB2.

Don't look for a 49ers win, but expect improvement. Frank Gore has a history of showing up on Monday nights. In four career MNFs, he's rushed for 393 yards and two TDs, not including receiving stats. Assuming San Francisco doesn't fall behind early, Gore will have success against a New Orleans defense that served up 4.6 yards per carry to Adrian Peterson in the opener. It's not a unit built to run plug, and lacks the perimeter speed to stop Gore on screens and swings. ... OC Jimmy Raye announced this week that Brian Westbrook is only Gore's backup. He's not even a changeup back, and is droppable in fantasy leagues. Anthony Dixon has more handcuff value.

A throw-happy game is possible, but Alex Smith owners need look elsewhere. In their last four games, the Saints have held Peyton Manning, Kurt Warner, and Brett Favre (twice) to three TDs and five INTs. Their combined QB rating is 77.2. ... That said, Michael Crabtree is destined to come on strong. No coach motivates like Mike Singletary, and he has Crabtree's ear after a half-hearted Week 1 effort. Crabtree will be fine. ... At least before using Roman Harper to shadow Visanthe Shiancoe in the second half last week, New Orleans looked quite vulnerable to tight ends. Shiancoe racked up 4-76-1 in the first two quarters alone. Vernon Davis is an elite play.

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