Evan Silva


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Matchups: Going Greene

Friday, October 01, 2010

Detroit @ Green Bay

A Week 4 date with the NFL's worst run defense presents an opportunity for Green Bay to truly see what it has in Brandon Jackson. Jackson's fallen flat in back-to-back starts, averaging 3.39 yards per touch. The Packers need some semblance of a ground attack for the winter months, so they're either going to have to ride the Jackson-John Kuhn combo or trade for Marshawn Lynch. Expect Jackson to receive 15-plus touches on Sunday. He's not shown enough talent to be better than a low-end RB2, but the matchup couldn't be better. The Lions have allowed a league-high five rushing scores and are surrendering 5.0 yards per carry. ... Kuhn is worth a look in TD-heavy formats. He's only got 15 carries in the last two weeks, but remains the favorite for goal-line work.

Even if the Packers don't rack up 45 pass attempts again, the Lions are too bad in the secondary to have any chance of stopping them. On Percy Harvin's 24-yard TD catch in Week 3, Detroit blew two separate coverages, with Visanthe Shiancoe running wide open over the middle and Lions SS C.C. Brown forced to abandon his deep responsibilities on Harvin. Aaron Rodgers, Greg Jennings, and Jermichael Finley will eat this pass "defense" alive. ... Donald Driver has hauled in an impressive 78 percent of his team-high 23 targets, but averages 7.16 yards per reception and is no longer any sort of post-catch threat. Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising for a 35-year-old coming off double offseason knee surgery. His long catch on the year is 13 yards.

Tony Scheffler has mixed in one clunker with two strong efforts through three games, but he's a recommended bye-week start against a Green Bay defense that yielded Greg Olsen's best game of the season (5-64-1) in Week 3. Scheffler is playing at an extremely high level, hauling in 70 percent of his 20 targets, which rank third on the Lions behind only Calvin Johnson and Jahvid Best. ... Johnson has scored five touchdowns in his last three games against Green Bay, and six in the teams' past five meetings. Double coverage is unavoidable, but you can't bench Megatron against a team that has yet to show it can stop him. ... Nate Burleson (high ankle sprain) isn't expected to play, but Derrick Williams and Bryant Johnson aren't options. You already knew that.

Jahvid Best's turf toe is a big concern. There's a reason Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling just barely rank him as a top-25 RB play, and it's not just a Packers run defense that led the league in 2009. The prospect of Best sitting on the sideline for long stretches is real, as the injury is highly susceptible to aggravation. Realistically, owners should hope he doesn't play. He needs time to heal. ... Maurice Morris would get the start if Best is inactive, though he too would be an undesirable fill-in. Morris has 11 yards on 10 carries this season, and would share time with Kevin Smith. Detroit's offensive line is struggling to open holes. They need Best's moves to look viable.

Seattle @ St. Louis

Steven Jackson tweeted Wednesday that "the groin is doing good," before revealing Thursday that he's yet to resume running. In the event Jackson is a "go" for the division game, he's faced with a tough matchup. Seattle's No. 5 run defense allows a paltry 2.6 yards per carry (third fewest in football) with massive LE Red Bryant setting the edge and Seahawks linebackers filling hard on the ground. Of course, S-Jax ripped a Redskins defense that allows just 3.5 yards per carry for 64 yards and a score on 11 touches prior to his Week 3 injury. Such dominant talent is impossible to bench, although it's beginning to look like owners won't have to make the decision.

Kenneth Darby is no more than a low-end flex if Jackson sits. Though Darby ran with improved physicality off the bench in Week 3, he's disappointed time and time again in past opportunities to start. This matchup is too difficult. ... Keep a red-hot Mark Clayton rolling against the NFL's 30th-ranked pass defense. Seattle may also be forced to start rookie Walter Thurmond III in place of top CB Marcus Trufant (ankle). Clayton is the No. 13 overall fantasy receiver, and St. Louis will have to throw to move the ball without S-Jax. ... Laurent Robinson (foot) and Danny Amendola remain bench-to-waivers material. The brittle Robinson doesn't play well at less than 100 percent, and Amendola didn't even start with Robinson out last week. Amendola is strictly a slot receiver.

Justin Forsett isn't without risk, but looks to have emerged as the premier fantasy play in Seattle. A healthy Julius Jones and Leon Washington combined for one touch in Week 3, while Forsett took over as the every-down back. He touched the ball 20 times, averaging 4.7 yards-per. With the Seahawks' line finally coming together (LT Russell Okung is practicing again), Forsett is the ideal bye-week flex. ... Matt Hasselbeck also projects to benefit from the offensive line upgrades. He's currently the No. 13 overall fantasy quarterback, and the Seahawks' promise to increase Deon Butler and rookie Golden Tate's usage will only help his cause. Just keep in mind that the Rams' pass defense isn't as bad as usual. They've found a keeper in RCB Bradley Fletcher.

John Carlson is quietly tied for fourth among all tight ends in targets, behind Dallas Clark, Antonio Gates, and Vernon Davis. Coming off a 5-61-1 line, Carlson has emerged as the favorite for receiving production in Seattle. The Rams have been surprisingly stingy against tight ends, but it's not like Hasselbeck has anywhere else to throw. ... Behind Carlson's 24, Deion Branch's 16 targets are second on the Seahawks, but he's averaging a measly 8.5 yards per catch. Don't use him. ... Mike Williams, battling a shoulder injury, has seven receptions through three games. This will be Tate, Butler, and perhaps newly acquired Brandon Stokley's receiver corps in due time.

San Francisco @ Atlanta

In an effort to get Tony Gonzalez going, the Falcons worked Roddy White on frequent "clearing" routes in Week 3, drawing the safety away or forcing him to bite outside. Gonzo capitalized for an 8-110-1 line. The 49ers have allowed an opposing tight end to find the end zone in two straight weeks. ... Double coverage on White is increasing, but the NFL's most underrated receiver is proving unstoppable. He beat Jabari Greer and Malcolm Jenkins's double team over the top for his 22-yard fourth-quarter score in Atlanta's road upset of New Orleans. White won't struggle to finish as a top-ten fantasy wideout for a third straight year. ... Falcons pass catchers behind White and Gonzalez are hands-off. Harry Douglas is third on the team in receiving -- with just 71 yards.

Matt Ryan is currently the No. 9 fantasy quarterback, living up to our top-ten expectations. The 49ers' pass defense is improved from last year, but with Gonzo rolling again Ryan is hard to sit. ... Atlanta has scored a league-high 61 red-zone points. 90 percent of that battle is getting to the red zone in the first place. The Falcons' ability to consistently do this bodes extremely well for goal-line maven Michael Turner, whose 32 touches in Week 3 confirmed he is fully over his groin injury. The typically stout 49ers defense is showing some leaks, ranking 15th against the run and allowing the second most 20-plus yard rushes in the NFL. Turner is off the injury report and an RB1 in the matchup. ... With Turner healthy, Jason Snelling's 14 carries in Week 3 were an aberration. He's not a good option. The Falcons won't run the ball 50 times again all year.

For three weeks, QBs coach Mike Johnson watched as 49ers playcaller Jimmy Raye refused to make in-game adjustments to get his No. 1 receiver the ball. Multiple reports had Raye's offense so predictable that Chiefs defenders called out Raye's plays at the line of scrimmage in Week 3. Replacing the fired Raye, one of Johnson's top priorities will be creating one-on-ones for Michael Crabtree. Johnson brings lots of experience with the spread offense, in which Alex Smith, Crabtree, and Vernon Davis thrived last season. Crabtree and Smith also played in college spreads. Having generated the second fewest points in football, Johnson's offense can't help but improve, especially in the passing game. Atlanta's pass defense is a good starting point. The unit ranks 22nd overall despite facing Dennis Dixon and Derek Anderson in 2-of-3 games so far.

Frank Gore has been dominant in PPR leagues. Leading all RBs with 22 catches, he's on pace for an otherworldly 1,083 yards receiving. With the easiest running back schedule in the league from Weeks 4-12, Gore is setup for an incredible year. The Falcons give up the most yards per carry in the NFL (5.1), and top tackler Sean Weatherspoon is battling a bum ankle. ... Josh Morgan scored a fluky 12-yard TD in Week 3, something he did three times all last year. His role projects to decrease as Crabtree's rises. ... Vernon Davis has yet to find the end zone after tying Antonio Gates' tight end record with 13 scores in 2009. Look for that to change this week. Atlanta served up 11 catches for 102 yards and a touchdown to Saints tight ends last Sunday.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

The Ravens' allowance of 180 yards to Peyton Hillis in Week 3 should make Rashard Mendenhall feel better. Playing a 4-3 defense, Baltimore was manhandled all game by Cleveland's offensive line. The Pittsburgh front five is doing similar things on their running back's behalf, with Rocket Rashard's yards-per-attempt clip standing at a studly 5.2. He's fourth in the NFL in rushing. The Ravens will probably defend the run better moving forward, but Mendenhall is awfully hard to sit after seeing what Hillis did. His cause isn't hurt by the possible absence of solid run-defending DE Cory Redding (concussion), who'd be replaced by Paul Kruger. Kruger hasn't played a snap this season... Heath Miller is averaging 23 receiving yards per game. He is run blocking well, at least.

Despite three touchdown passes in Week 3, Charlie Batch isn't suddenly a viable spot start. His second-quarter TD bomb should've been picked off by Bucs CB Aqib Talib, and Batch was hurried just four times all game, according to Pro Football Focus. Baltimore brings considerably more heat. ... Mike Wallace will be a serious weapon when Ben Roethlisberger returns, but the deep threat also benefited from a mistake-prone Tampa secondary that was breaking in a new starting free safety. Wallace's first-quarter 46-yard touchdown catch went right over the top of ham-handed rookie Cody Grimm, and Batch won't have nearly as much comfort settling into his drops against Baltimore's No. 1-ranked pass defense. Hines Ward remains the better bet for catches.

Ray Rice's biggest problem isn't his bruised knee. It's his matchup. Pittsburgh's defense has reemerged as the finest in football, ranking third against the run with LeGarrette Blount as the only running back to score on them. The Steelers have already bottled up Chris Johnson (17-34) and Michael Turner (19-42). It's not crazy to play someone like Shonn Greene or Peyton Hillis over Rice. ... Despite a three-touchdown rebound game in Week 3, Joe Flacco is far from a must-start against elite defenses. While Ravens LT Michael Oher will have his hands full of James Harrison, RT Marshal Yanda will be LaMarr Woodley's next victim. Flacco won't have time to go deep.

While expectations should be limited for his inconsistent quarterback, Anquan Boldin is being too heavily targeted to bench. Flacco has directed 29 passes his way, making Boldin a clear-cut No. 1 receiver ahead of Derrick Mason (19 targets). Boldin's matchup could be better, but you can't sit the No. 2 fantasy wideout. ... Boldin's addition has made Mason a non-factor, as he's failed to top 31 yards in any of Baltimore's first three games. Mason and Todd Heap are canceling each other out in the underneath receiving game. ... T.J. Houshmandzadeh isn't just struggling in the box score; he's struggling in real life. Housh has hauled in two of his 11 targets on the season.

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