Evan Silva

Matchups

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Matchups: Going Greene

Friday, October 01, 2010




4:05PM ET Games

Houston @ Oakland

Bruce Gradkowski might be the sleeper of the week. Since replacing Jason Campbell at halftime of Week 2, Gradkowski is averaging 7.45 yards per pass attempt and has led eight scoring drives in six quarters. Houston is playing extremely lopsided defense, allowing the most passing yards in the league, yet not a single running back to top 55 yards through three games. Darren McFadden has earned every-week starter status, but gets his toughest test yet against a Texans team that ranks second in run defense and surrenders 3.0 yards per carry. Gradkowski could benefit with 35-plus throws, because the Raiders appear unlikely to move the ball consistently on the ground.

Receiving stats from Gradkowski: Darrius Heyward Bey -- 20 targets, 8-123-0; Louis Murphy -- 13 targets, 10-183-1; Zach Miller -- 12 targets, 5-88-1. DHB's 20 targets stand out, but they'll come down. Gradkowski is having way more success with Murphy and Miller, who both scored roughly 12 fantasy points in Week 3 to Heyward-Bey's 4.9. ... Miller is an elite start coming off a year-best effort. Tight ends are averaging nine grabs for 96 yards per game against Houston, with two TDs. Miller could feast on speed-deficient FS Dominique Barber, who will replace Eugene Wilson (hamstring) in the lineup. ... Keep a close eye on Murphy, Oakland's starting flanker. Cowboys flanker Roy Williams toasted Texans LCB Kareem Jackson for 117 yards and two touchdowns on five grabs last week. Murphy has a bruised clavicle. Heyward-Bey would benefit if Murphy sits.

It seems crazy to sit Andre Johnson, but there are lots of factors working against him this week. A.J. regularly squares off with Nnamdi Asomugha when the Texans face Oakland, and has lines of 1-9-0, 2-19-0, and 2-66-0 in their last three meetings. Johnson's ankle injury also seems to be worse after a Week 3 aggravation, and Houston threatens to go run heavy against Oakland's No. 2 pass defense. Coach Gary Kubiak has spoken openly of sitting Johnson to let the injury heal. It'd probably be for the best. ... Johnson hasn't missed a game since 2007, but when he did Jacoby Jones was the LWR and Kevin Walter stayed at RWR. LWRs usually go against the RCB Asomugha. If Johnson sits out, Walter would tentatively be a better fantasy bet than Jones.

Whereas the Raiders rank second against the pass, they're 24th against the run and allowing 4.6 yards per carry. They've also surrendered a rushing TD per game. In Week 1, Houston showed a knack for matchup-based game plans, posting a 42:17 run-to-pass ratio that included 10 runs to open the game. This looks to be an ideal time to repeat the approach. Arian Foster would be the obvious beneficiary. ... Owen Daniels popped up with a bad hamstring on this week's injury report, after being listed with a "knee" prior to the first three games. He's not an option. ... A lot of what's written above points to a potential poor game for Matt Schaub. The matchup certainly isn't ideal.

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville

The Colts' offense continues to be a fantasy goldmine. Peyton Manning is the No. 1 quarterback, now squaring off with the No. 29 pass defense. ... Austin Collie is the No. 1 fantasy receiver, and his snaps are on the rise with Pierre Garcon continuing to nurse a hamstring strain. (Collie's heel injury isn't expected to be problematic.) Reggie Wayne, the No. 8 receiver, obliterated the Jags for 10-162-1 and 5-132-1 in 2009. ... Dallas Clark is the No. 3 tight end, and had seven catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns in his last meeting with the Jaguars. There just isn't a Colts skill player with sitting in this one. Even undrafted rookie sleeper receiver Blair White is a viable WR3.

The Jaguars are tougher in run defense than they are against the pass, but Joseph Addai remains a strong bet to find the end zone this week. Especially with emerging committee partner Donald Brown (hamstring) not expected to play, Addai is a candidate for 20 touches during a game in which Indianapolis projects to dominate the time of possession battle. You can't sit him.

David Garrard's regression has continued for a third straight season, and the performance decline is now occurring on a game-by-game basis. Though Indy was ripped open for 467 passing yards by Kyle Orton in Week 3, you can't rely on a quarterback sitting on a 1:5 TD-to-INT ratio in his last two outings. Garrard might have to throw a ton to keep up with the Colts' unstoppable scoring, but recent history suggests it would result in more turnovers than touchdowns. ... Mike Sims-Walker, on the other hand, stands to be the biggest beneficiary if the Jaguars indeed get down early. Sims-Walker has also shown a penchant for stumping Indianapolis' defense. Playing through knee and calf injuries against the Colts last year, he had six catches for 64 yards and a score.

The prospect of Jacksonville falling behind early is scary for Maurice Jones-Drew, but at least the matchup is favorable. Throw out Laurence Maroney's Week 3 stink bomb and the Colts have allowed at least 120 rushing yards to each of their opponents. Indianapolis just isn't built to stop the run, and will again be without top tackler Clint Session (hamstring). While Jones-Drew's slow start has been ridden with red flags and disappointment, he's got the right upcoming matchups (Indy - 28th in run defense, Buffalo - 27th) to turn it around. ... After two solid weeks to open the year, Marcedes Lewis reverted to his shell with 15 yards in Week 3. He's just not an explosive player.

4:15PM ET Games

Washington @ Philadelphia

The Skins' defense allows just 3.5 yards per carry, but its weaknesses have been exposed. The Rams lit up the unit for 77 yards and a TD on eight carries in Week 3 by forcing Washington into its nickel package. Coordinator Jim Haslett uses the nickel whenever an opponent floods the field with three-plus receivers, something the Eagles do on most snaps. Though the matchup appears difficult at first glance, a smart offensive coordinator like Marty Mornhinweg of the Eagles should be able to exploit the Skins' soft spots enough to make LeSean McCoy a desirable fantasy start.

The Redskins are more vulnerable in the air, which is great news for Michael Vick. Washington's secondary has struggled in each of the first three games, yielding the most passing yards in the NFC and the second most 20-plus yard completions in football. The Eagles' deep passing game is hitting on all cylinders, ranking third in the NFL in pass plays of 25-plus yards. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin should continue their torrid paces. Jackson is currently the No. 3 receiver in fantasy. Seeing constant single teams outside, Maclin is sixth. ... Ranked 27th in fantasy points at his position, Brent Celek needs to stay on benches against a Skins defense that has yet to allow a tight end to top 28 yards. Celek will get it together. It's just a poor bet to happen this week.

We spoke of Santana Moss' heavy target and reception totals last week. He put it all together in a six-catch, 124-yard, one-TD explosion at St. Louis. It's not going to stop. Rod Smith and Eddie Royal were Mike Shanahan's latest flankers -- the position now played by Moss. He's the No. 14 fantasy wideout and an every-week starter. ... With the receiver spot opposite Moss a wasteland, Chris Cooley is the clear-cut second best option for Donovan McNabb. The Eagles have been surprisingly stout in tight end coverage through three games, but Cooley will be the beneficiary if the Birds stick a double team on the red-hot Moss. At least one of the two will have a huge day.

All that said, the Eagles' pass defense has been plenty stout. Ranked second in the league in sacks, Philadelphia is permitting an NFL-low 5.9 yards per pass attempt and an NFL-low 53.8 completion rate. There won't be a more motivated Week 4 player than McNabb, but the No. 16 overall fantasy quarterback doesn't have a good matchup. ... The Washington backfield is in pick-your-poison mode, with The Mastermind Shanahan continuing to play mind games. Ryan Torain is supposedly going to get most early-down work, with Clinton Portis focusing on pass blocking and potentially receiving. We'll believe it when we see it. The situation is totally unpredictable.


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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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