Evan Silva

Matchups

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Matchups: Guessing Game Plans

Thursday, October 07, 2010




Jacksonville @ Buffalo

Matchups can turn a season around quickly. Maurice Jones-Drew wasn't a top-30 fantasy back entering Week 4, but got off the schneid in a 121-total yard, two-touchdown effort against the Colts' No. 29 run defense. Ranking dead last in the league against the run and having let up an NFL-high seven rushing touchdowns, the Bills are even more generous. Just keep in mind that MJD had to fight for every yard against Indianapolis behind Jacksonville's putrid interior run blocking. Unless you're 4-0 or 3-1 and already gearing up for the fantasy playoffs, watch Jones-Drew rip up Buffalo, then sell him high. He doesn't get another truly favorable matchup until Week 14 against Oakland.

Chris Wesseling pointed out in Week 5's Waiver Wired that since 2008 David Garrard has averaged a fumble per game, 55 fewer passing yards, and twice as many interceptions as touchdowns in away games than at home. Wesseling then recommended the Bills' defense as a spot play. It's good advice. There isn't a QB in football with worse (or more fantasy-reliable) splits, so don't chase Garrard's numbers from Jacksonville's Week 4 home upset of Indianapolis in this road game. ... Mike Sims-Walker appeared to play behind Tiquan Underwood against the Colts, finishing without a catch on one target. Sims-Walker and Underwood are bench material until one emerges as an every-down player. ... Mike Thomas hasn't scored on the year. He's a low-end WR3 in PPR and a WR5/6 in non-PPR. ... If you're using Marcedes Lewis, you're counting on a TD. He does nothing downfield.

The Marshawn Lynch trade moves Fred Jackson to the top of Buffalo's tailback depth chart and C.J. Spiller to No. 2. Their upsides are capped by an offense that doesn't move the ball or run block well, but now is the time to use Jackson. He won't be a better bet for touches going forward, and Jacksonville is giving up the second most rushing scores in the league. The Jaguars are running their defensive line into the ground. RE Aaron Kampman and DTs Terrance Knighton and Tyson Alualu almost never come off the field, tiring as games progress. If this keeps up, Jacksonville will be an especially favorable running-game matchup down the stretch. Alualu is a rookie, Kampman is 31 years old, and Knighton is 330 pounds after several hours in the sauna.

Even in a matchup with the Jaguars' No. 30 pass defense, the Bills' passing game just barely merits a mention in this column. Ryan Fitzpatrick, as expected, came back to earth in Week 4 after "adding a spark" in a close loss to New England the week prior. Look elsewhere if you're desperate at quarterback. Coach Chan Gailey admitted after last week's game that he considered inserting Brian Brohm. Fitzpatrick is obviously on a short leash. ... Lee Evans isn't playing well, but he at least is the Bills' receiver most worthy of a roll of the dice. Buffalo's split end, Evans will line up across from either David Jones or Derek Cox for most of Sunday's game. Jones and Cox were preyed on by Peyton Manning in Week 4, with Reggie Wayne racking up 19 targets and 15 grabs.

4:05PM ET Game

New Orleans @ Arizona

Max Hall isn't a good bet to light up the box score in his first NFL start, but he's got a quarterback-friendly situation. The Saints aren't generating turnovers at near their 2009 rate, and rank in the bottom ten in sacks. DEs Alex Brown and Will Smith have one QB takedown combined. CB Tracy Porter's torn MCL pushes into the lineup nickel back Randall Gay, who's stretched as a starter. It all adds up to an improved outlook for Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz would normally go against Porter's side. Hall, who completed over 67 percent of his passes in each of his final two years at BYU, is an immediate accuracy upgrade over Derek Anderson. Anderson's completion rate was 51.8. Hall probably won't hit Fitz on any bombs, but will provide more after-the-catch opportunities.

The Cards' intent should still be to run early and often with an undrafted rookie quarterback. They certainly have the matchup to execute. Assuming the Saints' passing offense doesn't suddenly catch fire and grab a big early lead, Arizona should be able to impose its will with the run. The Saints have allowed an unruly 672 total yards (168 per game) and six touchdowns to running backs so far. Beanie Wells' matchup couldn't be better, and even Tim Hightower is worth a look as a flex play. If the Cardinals win the toss, expect them to receive and go to work on the ground.

Speaking of bad run defense, Arizona takes the cake. Rookie ILB Daryl Washington was benched in Week 4, DE Darnell Dockett has never been a good run defender, and 33-year-old OLBs Clark Haggans and Joey Porter are washed up. Saints coach Sean Payton loves to prey on matchups after watching film, and won't struggle to eyeball the Cardinals' weakest link. Pierre Thomas (ankle) is questionable, but Payton might go run heavy anyway against the NFC's worst rush defense. Thomas is an RB1 if he plays. If he doesn't, Week 4 starter Chris Ivory (12-67 against Carolina) is a worthwhile bye-week flex in non-PPR leagues. In PPR, the same goes for Ladell Betts (13-47, four catches for 23 yards in Week 4). Ivory remains the favorite for goal-line carries.

UPDATE: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports that Pierre Thomas (ankle) is "really unlikely" to play in Week 5.

Be it due to a run-first game plan or grasping an early lead, the Saints are unlikely to register an exorbitant number of pass attempts. That's not to call No. 7 fantasy QB Drew Brees a weak play -- he'll have all day to throw because Haggans and Porter get no pressure -- but Robert Meachem and Devery Henderson are. They've combined to top 38 yards once this year, and rely on volume for any kind of predictable fantasy production. Keep them reserved, if not on the waiver wire. ... Marques Colston is off to an awfully slow start, but a date with Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could turn him around. DRC has been Arizona's weakest corner -- worse than first-year starter Greg Toler -- yet the Cardinals still use him to "shadow" opposing No. 1s. Keep Colston going. ... Jeremy Shockey has been solid in two straight weeks, but he'll be on the line blocking in this one.


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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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