Evan Silva


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Matchups: Miles Evokes Smiles

Friday, September 24, 2010

Dallas @ Houston

There isn't a better WR1 in fantasy football than Miles Austin against a Texans secondary that's giving up a league-high 411 passing yards per game. Austin is leading the NFL in receiving yards and is tied with Roddy White for first in receptions. ... This should be the game that gets Tony Romo rolling. Romo is completing 66-plus percent of his passes and has games of 282 and 374 yards. The touchdowns will come. ... Coach Wade Phillips spoke of "making changes" early in the week with Dallas off to an 0-2 start. The most obvious move: Replacing Roy Williams with Dez Bryant in two-receiver sets. Bryant, who returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown in Week 2, has too much playmaking ability to be on a struggling team's bench. Keep an eye on his rib injury.

Jason Witten was furious at Dallas doctors for refusing to let him reenter last week's loss to the Bears after a fourth-quarter concussion. A true competitor, Witten has been cleared to face a Texans team exploitable by tight ends. Dallas Clark dropped an 11-80-1 line on them in Week 1, and Chris Cooley and Fred Davis combined for 126 yards and a score against Houston in Week 2. ... Despite the talent in Dallas' backfield, it's all but barren of fantasy value. Here are the carry and yardage totals on the year: Marion Barber 19-70, Felix Jones 15-45, Tashard Choice 6-17. The Texans also haven't allowed an opposing back top 44 yards in a game yet. Look elsewhere.

Houston will be without suspended LT Duane Brown in this one, but Chicago provided a blueprint last week to beat Dallas without a starting left tackle. The formula relies on short-to-intermediate throws, testing the Cowboys' range-deficient inside linebackers and green safety corps. It does allow for the occasional deep shot (see Johnny Knox's 86-yard game), but a possession receiver like Kevin Walter could be headed for a big role. Walter, coming off a dominant 11-catch, 144-yard performance, is a strong WR3. ... Owen Daniels continues to labor through the early part of the season after a 2009 ACL tear, and subsequent offseason setback. He's not a fantasy option.

Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub are matchup-proof starters. Johnson dominates at all three levels, and his Week 2 ankle sprain won't keep him out of this battle for the state of Texas. ... The Cowboys' run defense has been one of their few strengths, holding enemy RBs to 2.97 yards per carry without a single touchdown. Arian Foster is the NFL's rushing leader, though, and can't be benched in a game Vegas projects as the third-highest scoring of Week 3 (ATL @ NO is first, IND @ DEN second). Also tied for the league lead in touches through two weeks, Foster is a safe bet to find pay dirt. He's averaging 155 total yards per game with six TDs in his last four starts.

4:05PM ET Games

Washington @ St. Louis

Through two weeks, Santana Moss ranks fifth in the NFL in targets and third in catches. And he's going to stay among the league leaders in both categories with no one stepping up in the No. 2 receiver spot. Moss is running more underneath routes after switching from split end to flanker. He's been of the best values in 2010 fantasy drafts. ... Another terrific value is Chris Cooley, who caught his first regular season touchdown from Donovan McNabb in Week 2 and is currently the No. 5 fantasy tight end. Cooley fell to the double-digit rounds in many drafts. The Rams won't contain Cooley with SS Craig Dahl battling a concussion and backup James Butler exhibiting an extraordinary loss of speed after a preseason knee injury. Butler isn't anywhere near 100 percent.

After a slow opener, McNabb turned it on with 426 yards and a TD in a Week 2 shootout loss to Houston. The Rams' pass defense isn't playing as badly as the Texans', but it's close. You'll definitely want to start McNabb, who received extra motivation this week after seeing his alleged successor in Philly benched. ... Clinton Portis is averaging 3.0 yards per touch. Starting RBs are always worthwhile plays against the Rams, but rookie Keiland Williams is likely to begin eating into Portis' workload shortly. In fact, it wouldn't be a shock if the Redskins jumped out to an early lead and Williams was given a healthy dose of carries in St. Louis. Williams should be owned in all leagues, and is realistically just as good a bet as Portis to be starting games down the stretch.

Steven Jackson went seven weeks without a TD in 2009, and is off to another scoreless start. The reasoning for hope lies in one of the NFL's youngest offenses. The Rams' quarterback and left tackle are both rookies, the right tackle a second-year player, and the No. 1 receiver has been on the roster two weeks. Expect weekly progression. Though the Skins have allowed no rushing touchdowns and a scant 3.5 yards-per-carry average in two games, they've not faced a talent like Jackson. The Rams looked like a team on the rise in their last home game (a 17-13 loss to the defending division champ Cardinals), and S-Jax is running too ferociously for his 3.8 YPC to last.

Mark Clayton continued to establish himself as the lead dog in St. Louis' receiver corps last week, scoring twice after a 10-catch opener. Clayton had Nnamdi Asomugha on him for much of Week 2, so his 27 yards were excusable. He's still way out on front of oft-injured Laurent Robinson and slot man Danny Amendola, who's playing only 50-60 percent of the offensive snaps. Clayton is playing all of them. With even less competition for targets due to TEs Billy Bajema (MCL sprain) and Michael Hoomanawanui's (high ankle sprain) injuries, Clayton is an every-week WR3.

Philadelphia @ Jacksonville

In a surprise only to those who didn't watch the Eagles' first two games, coach Andy Reid tabbed Michael Vick Tuesday as the team's starting quarterback going forward. The job was earned, as Vick has produced 599 total yards and accounted for three TDs in just over six full quarters, while leading Philly to its first 2010 win in Week 2. He now faces a Jaguars pass defense that's allowed more yards per pass attempt (10.1) than any team in the league, and more pass plays of 20-plus yards (11) than any AFC team. Vick is an elite fantasy option again. ... Vick's targets on the year thus far: DeSean Jackson 14, Jason Avant 12, Jeremy Maclin 10, Brent Celek 8. ... Jackson, the recipient of four catches for 135 yards and a touchdown from Vick last week, is forming the best rapport with Philadelphia's new quarterback. He's averaging an otherworldly 20.6 yards per catch.

Celek owners have to be concerned with their starting tight end's value. Vick has played with incredible aggression, willing to take deep shots rather than settle for dump-offs to his tight end. The Jags served up five catches and two touchdowns to Antonio Gates in Week 2, however, and Celek is simply too nimble and skilled a pass catcher to bust due to a quarterback who's always loved throwing to tight ends. Keep Celek going. ... Owners unafraid (or perhaps unaware) of LeSean McCoy's previous tentativeness between the tackles are benefiting enormously. They've got the No. 3 overall fantasy RB so far, and McCoy will build on that ranking this week. Jacksonville is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns allowed and is serving up 4.4 yards per carry.

Mike Sims-Walker bounced back from Champ Bailey's catch-less shadow coverage in the opener for a 10-105-1 line at San Diego, despite a clunker from David Garrard (four picks, 173 yards). With Jacksonville's ground game struggling, Sims-Walker may ultimately prove the feature player in this offense. He's an every-week WR2. The Eagles' pass rush is still in its developing phase with five sacks in two games. Garrard should be able to go deep, and MSW is his lone vertical threat. ... Mike Thomas continues to be used as a strict possession/underneath receiver. Thomas runs a great forty time, but the Jaguars' offense doesn't give him many big-play opportunities.

Marcedes Lewis is a lumbering tight end, but he's gotten the job done with two scores in his first game and 70 yards in the second. Lewis isn't talented enough for TE1 value, but he's a viable alternative if you're worried about someone like Celek or Tony Gonzalez. ... Maurice Jones-Drew is sitting on a 3.7 YPC average behind a Jaguars offensive line that isn't opening holes. MJD also isn't creating for himself, appearing to lack some explosiveness following a preseason knee injury. Owners still can't bench their top-five fantasy pick against an Eagles defense that served up a record performance to Jahvid Best in Week 2. We'll know more about Jones-Drew after this one.

4:15PM ET Games

San Diego @ Seattle

Philip Rivers is going deep less this year, but he's executing better than ever. So far, Rivers has completed all four of his 20-plus yard passes for 164 yards and two TDs. He usually averages over four 20-yarders per game. Expect a few more vertical shots against a Seahawks defense that's generated just three sacks through two weeks, and only one from a member of its starting front four. ... More vertical passing means more targets and yards for Malcom Floyd, coming off a 95-yard effort with a score. Floyd is healthy, despite missing Wednesday's practice. A LWR, he should face off with Seahawks RCB Kelly Jennings as opposed to studly LCB Marcus Trufant.

Antonio Gates is on fire, ranking first among tight ends in fantasy points. Seattle struggles in over-the-middle coverage, having yielded an 8-73 line to Vernon Davis in Week 1 and 5-65-1 to Broncos slot man Eddie Royal in Week 2. ... Legedu Naanee proved his five-catch, 110-yard opener was a fluke last week, catching one ball for 14 yards. He won't get loose from Trufant's coverage. ... Ryan Mathews is doubtful with a high ankle sprain, so Mike Tolbert will start at tailback. A powerful 250-pounder, Tolbert is a good bet to find the end zone in a game that should feature 30-plus points from the Bolts. Darren Sproles is a worthwhile flex in PPR leagues.

Behind only teammate Deion Branch, Seattle's Mike Williams is the worst starting wide receiver in football. A week after dropping 33 percent of his targets and getting caught from behind on a 35-yard catch, Williams got no separation against the Broncos, finishing with seven yards on three targets. Deon Butler and Golden Tate need to be the Seahawks' starters sooner rather than later. Matt Hasselbeck won't generate any big plays with his current wideout corps. ... San Diego presents an easier matchup than Denver did, but only slightly. The Chargers are tied for the NFL lead in interceptions and allow a miniscule 5.6 yards per pass attempt -- fifth fewest in the league.

John Carlson quietly leads Seattle with 15 targets. He's just not doing much with them, managing 84 yards through two weeks. The Chargers usually struggle in tight end coverage, but he's just not productive enough to count on. ... Seahawks carries through two games: Justin Forsett 15, Julius Jones 12, Leon Washington 10. Washington isn't even worth rostering in 12-team leagues. Forsett has little value outside of PPR formats, and he's only got four catches. Jones is averaging 2.5 yards per carry. Regardless of matchups, there's nothing to get remotely excited about here.

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