Evan Silva

Matchups

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Matchups: Here's Johnny

Thursday, October 14, 2010




Seattle @ Chicago

The Soldier Field forecast calls for sunny skies and minimal wind. It's friendly passing weather, and Jay Cutler's matchup is even more kind. Seattle ranks 31st against the pass, forcing teams to rack up throws with the NFL's No. 2 run defense. Those rankings will move toward the mean as the year unfolds, but Cutler has the look of an elite play against a pass defense that surrenders 302 yards a game. In their pre-bye loss, rookie Sam Bradford touched up the Seahawks for 289 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Naturally, you'd expect Cutler to do even better. ... Deep threat Johnny Knox has been unsurprisingly quiet for two weeks, with the Giants' pass rush stymieing Cutler in Week 4 and weak-armed Todd Collins under center in Week 5. Along with Cutler, Knox should bounce back big. Chicago's split end projects to spend most of Sunday against Seahawks RCB Kelly Jennings, as opposed to LCB Marcus Trufant. Jennings is Seattle's weakest corner.

Though Matt Forte's matchup is tough for aforementioned reasons, it's impossible to sit a running back playing so well. He exploded for 188 total yards and two TDs last week against a previously top-five Panthers run defense (Forte and Chester Taylor dropped their rank to 27). Both of Forte's touchdowns (18, 68 yards) came on weak-side runs, where Seattle is especially light in the pants. Weak-side DE Chris Clemons is 240 pounds dripping wet, while weak-side DT Brandon Mebane is a pass rusher first and run stopper second. ... Owners still can't reasonably expect much from Greg Olsen, who's averaging 35.8 yards per game. ... Devin Hester, slated for a date with Trufant, has been even worse with 25.2 yards a contest. He also played just 19-of-64 snaps in Week 5.

Deion Branch's trade creates opportunity in Seattle, but the least affected player is Mike Williams. He'll see no increase in snaps, and was already leading Seattle wideouts in targets. Williams just does nothing with them, averaging 24.7 yards per game since a 64-yard opener that may go down as his most productive effort of the year. Big Mike's strength -- and it's debatable if he has one -- is run-after-catch ability. The Bears can easily neutralize this with sure-tackling RCB Charles Tillman. ... In a battle for WR5 value, Deon Butler gets the starting nod but will rotate with rookie Golden Tate. Tate has more big-play ability (supported by both early-season and college stats) and won't need as many snaps, targets, or catches to be a better bet for yards than Butler.

Already Seattle's target and reception leader, John Carlson could also be positively impacted. Eight of Branch's nine grabs came on passes thrown inside ten yards, where Carlson does much of his work. ... Indications out of Seattle are that Marshawn Lynch in store for a sizable workload in Seahawks debut, but it's advisable to wait a week to be sure. Seattle's run blocking is only slightly better than Buffalo's, and the Bears' No. 3 rush defense stifled DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart for a combined 3.87 yards per touch in Week 5. Williams and Stewart are both more talented than Lynch, and Carolina's line is light years better than Seattle's. ... Justin Forsett immediately moves into a third-down role behind Lynch, and is droppable in non-PPR leagues.

New Orleans @ Tampa Bay

Relative to last year, the Saints' offense is scuffling. Though they're fifth in the league in passing yards per game, New Orleans ranks 10th in offense and an awfully disappointing 31st in rushing. Pierre Thomas (ankle) and Reggie Bush's (knee) injuries have cost the Saints identity, but the Bucs could provide some cure. Drew Brees won't have to sweat pass rush from a Tampa team that ranks dead last in sacks, and the Bucs have thrived off turnovers, their nine INTs ranking second in the league. Brees only has seven picks in the Saints' last 12 games. ... On paper, New Orleans' running game has a picturesque matchup with a Bucs team that surrenders the most yards per carry in the NFC. Unfortunately, there's little clarity in the backfield if Thomas doesn't play. Chris Ivory is the best desperation start in the group, but got only 10 touches in Week 5.

Marques Colston got off the schneid with seven grabs for 97 yards against Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in Week 5. The Saints figure to be in the red zone far more often than they were at Arizona, which would make Colston an increasingly good bet for his season's first score. We'd call Aqib Talib's potential "shadow" coverage a concern, but Talib has been burned for a TD in each of the three games he's played. Terrell Owens roasted him for a 43-yard bomb down the left sideline last Sunday. At this point, Colston owners might want Talib covering their man. ... Robert Meachem had his best game of the year in Week 5 (4-57-1), while Devery Henderson (4-61) and Lance Moore (1-8) essentially canceled each other out. Until one of the three emerges as consistent -- as Meachem did down last season's stretch -- they're risk-reward WR3s. ... Jeremy Shockey has five touchdowns in his last 30 games. You should be able to do better in fantasy.

Rookie Mike Williams (foot) missed Thursday's practice after a "limited" Wednesday workout, and is questionable for Week 6. The Bucs' passing game gets nothing from its Nos. 2-4 receivers, so Williams' absence would be a major blow to Josh Freeman's bye-week start-ability. Easily pacing the Bucs in targets, Williams is a rock-solid WR3. If he doesn't play, Kellen Winslow would be the heavy favorite to dominate catches in Tampa. The last time the Saints faced a halfway decent tight end, Tony Gonzalez tore through their secondary for eight catches, 110 yards, and a score.

The Saints present a fairly friendly matchup for opposing ground games (No. 22 run defense, four rushing TDs allowed), but the Bucs employ a value-draining four-headed backfield monster. Coming off their bye last week, Earnest Graham led Tampa in rushing and scored on a third-quarter goal-line carry. (The short-yardage role was supposed be LeGarrette Blount's, according to Raheem Morris.) But Cadillac Williams led them in carries (11), while Blount (4-3) and Kareem Huggins (1-4) took backseats. For all we know, Blount could lead the team in carries this week with Huggins pacing the backfield in total yardage. It's an extremely unreliable fantasy situation.

Atlanta @ Philadelphia

LeSean McCoy was unlimited by his broken rib in Week 5, handling his second biggest workload of the year (23 touches) and playing 83 percent of the snaps. Fantasy's No. 3 back has shown matchup-proof ability in his last two games, racking up 312 total yards and a score against the Skins and 49ers. Atlanta ranks eighth against the run, but McCoy is an every-week starter. ... The Eagles may rely especially heavily on McCoy this week with King Dunlap replacing LT Jason Peters (knee). An awkward-looking 6-foot-8, 310-pounder, Dunlap gave up sacks to Travis LaBoy, Justin Smith, and Manny Lawson in Week 5. It's scary to think how badly he'll be exposed by Falcons RE John Abraham. Expect a hand-off and check down-filled day for Kevin Kolb.

Of course, check downs can work in favor of Brent Celek, who's caught a TD from Kolb in back-to-back weeks. He's been Kolb's most oft-targeted pass catcher, with 16 on the year. ... The rest of Kolb's targets: DeSean Jackson - 14; McCoy - 14; Jeremy Maclin - 13; Jason Avant - 7. ... Despite Jackson's 24-yard Week 5 clunker, you can't sit his big-play ability. Kolb is trying to get D-Jax the ball, and they showed plenty of rapport last year. ... Maclin, on the other hand, isn't a great bet to repeat last week's 95-yard game. Kolb will have Abraham breathing down his backside, and Maclin typically lines up as the backside receiver. Dunta Robinson rarely moves from his RCB spot, so Maclin will also be covered by Atlanta's top corner for most of the day.

There were some whispers that Michael Turner didn't look as explosive as usual early on, and his 3.79 yards-per-carry average entering Week 5 did nothing to diminish the concern. A 19-carry, 140-yard gashing of the Browns should lay it to rest, however, and a matchup with the Eagles' No. 24 rush defense will allow Turner's YPC to continue to spike. Philly is also without NT Brodrick Bunkley (elbow), whose primary task is to keep blockers from reaching MLB Stewart Bradley so that Bradley can plug the run. Bunkley's replacement will be 2009 undrafted free agent Antonio Dixon. The Falcons can control this game on the ground, with Turner as the offensive focal point.

Eagles LCB Asante Samuel (concussion) is back, but No. 6 overall fantasy receiver Roddy White remains matchup proof. Across the league, only Terrell Owens has been targeted more this season. ... With blocking wideout Michael Jenkins (shoulder) finally returning, Falcons receivers behind White are completely hands-off in fantasy. But there's nothing better for a scuffling tight end than a successful running game, and Tony Gonzalez should stay in fantasy lineups. Though he's topped 41 yards just once this year, Gonzo now takes on an Eagles team that's allowed a tight end to find the end zone in back-to-back weeks (Chris Cooley, Vernon Davis). In addition to the touchdown, Davis had five catches for 104 yards against Philadelphia last Sunday night.

Kansas City @ Houston

Owners searching for a Jermichael Finley replacement need look no further than Tony Moeaki. Rookie tight ends often struggle to become every-down players due to blocking weaknesses, but Moeaki has bucked the trend, playing 57-of-59 snaps in Week 5. No team is more generous to Moeaki's position than Houston, which through five games has given up 42 catches for 471 yards and four TDs (9/95/1 weekly average) to tight ends -- including last week's game against the Giants' non-factor TE corps. ... Texans "defensive" coordinator Frank Bush doubled Steve Smith in said game and left oft-burned rookie CB Kareem Jackson on an island with Hakeem Nicks. Predictably, Nicks went off for 12 catches, 130 yards, and two scores. Will be Bush so kind to Dwayne Bowe? Maybe, but he'd probably drop the ball. Bowe has nine catches in four games.

The Chiefs smartly used their Week 4 bye to execute a changing of the guard at tailback. Jamaal Charles emerged as the lead dog in Week 5, receiving five carries on Kansas City's opening possession and 19 touches compared to Thomas Jones' eight for the game. Jones barely played in crunch time, handling the pigskin once in the fourth quarter of a close game against the Colts. Charles was targeted, caught, or carried the ball seven times over the same span. Deservedly the Chiefs' offensive centerpiece again, Charles should continue to capitalize against a Texans run defense that showed vulnerability to the Giants last week. Houston allowed Ahmad Bradshaw (at less than 100 percent) and Brandon Jacobs to rack up 130 total yards and a touchdown.

Unafraid of Joseph Addai, the Chiefs used constant nickel and dime looks to successfully slow Peyton Manning in Week 5. K.C. can't repeat the strategy against NFL leading rusher Arian Foster, but Matt Schaub's blind-side protection has been just as big a concern as his drop in pass attempts. Texans fill-in LT Rashad Butler's pass blocking has worsened weekly, and he yielded two sacks to Osi Umenyiora last Sunday. Butler now faces Defensive POY candidate Tamba Hali. The Chiefs have allowed four passing touchdowns in four games, and are giving up just 6.4 yards per throw. A healthy Andre Johnson is a must-start, but Schaub's breakout week may have to wait. ... Also avoid Texans RWR Kevin Walter, who projects to spend most of the day covered by Chiefs shutdown LCB Brandon Flowers. Walter has topped 35 yards once all year.

Jacoby Jones (calf) can't be used at less than 100 percent. ... The Chiefs took Dallas Clark out of last week's game (3-20), and the Texans use Owen Daniels in similar fashion. Daniels isn't an option until he puts something substantial in the box score. ... Foster's scoreless, 27-yard Week 5 was a killer, as he saw just one post-half carry due to a "banged-up" knee. Still, Foster practiced fully this week and has been too productive to sit, even against K.C.'s top-six run defense. Leaving six and seven in the box certainly made life easier for Addai and Mike Hart, but they did combine for 144 total yards and a touchdown against the Chiefs last Sunday. If Hali is whipping Butler on Schaub's backside as expected, the Texans will have no choice but to lean heavily on Foster.


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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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