Evan Silva


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Matchups: A Lot for a Little

Sunday, October 16, 2011

1:00PM ET Games

Philadelphia @ Washington

The good news for Washington's backfield is that it's sure to have success against a Philly defense with no prayer of run stoppage. The quandary, of course, is determining which Redskins back will do the damage. Coach Mike Shanahan refuses to tip his hand as to a Week 6 starter, theoretically making Ryan Torain a high-risk fantasy play. Realistically, though, he's a near-lock to be Washington's lead runner. Finally healthy after entering his first three NFL seasons coming off serious injuries, Torain exhibited the best explosion and cutback ability of his career before the Week 5 bye, ripping off 11 runs of five or more yards on 19 carries at St. Louis, including 16, 20, and 39-yard sprints. Shanahan views Roy Helu as a change-up option only, and probable-former feature back Tim Hightower's 3.48 YPC wasn't cutting it for a coach that so heavily emphasizes per-play statistics. Shanny just had a bye to examine them all thoroughly. Torain needs to be in fantasy lineups because he offers 150-yard, two-score upside against the 30th-ranked run defense. ... Hightower is bench material as the Skins' projected third-down back. ... Helu remains a late-season stash. The rookie may need at least one injury to matter down the road. Hightower already has a balky shoulder and Torain's history suggests he won't last more than a few games, so Helu's break is probably forthcoming.

The Eagles' run defense is fun to bang on because it's a pathetically orchestrated unit, but the pass defense hasn't been much better. No team in football has a worse TD-to-INT ratio against (11:3) and only Miami and Denver have allowed opposing QBs to rack up higher passer ratings. The defense lacks an identity, other than a bunch of innocuous sacks. ... This still doesn't make Rex Grossman a standard-league fantasy option. Rexy has predictably crashed back to earth after a hot start, his yards-per-attempt average dropping in four consecutive games. In his last two -- against terrible Dallas and St. Louis secondaries -- Grossman has completed just 37-of-66 passes (56.1%) for 393 yards (5.95 YPA) and two touchdowns, also committing four turnovers. If Grossman's track record is any indication, the worst is still to come. ... Santana Moss has dominated targets in the Skins' pass-catching corps, seeing 35 through four games with the next closest 10 behind. Moss plays often in the slot, so he'll likely see Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for the majority of Sunday's snaps. DRC has looked lost trying to cover inside receivers this season. ... Fred Davis has slowed down a bit of late, but still ranks as a top-12 tight end in fantasy points per game. The Eagles are annually soft in tight end coverage, and they've repeated that vulnerability when facing capable tight ends this year. In Week 2, Tony Gonzalez touched them up for seven catches, 83 yards, and two touchdowns. In Week 4, San Francisco tight ends combined for seven more grabs, 65 yards, and another score. The Eagles' other three games have come against the Rams, Giants, and Bills.

The Eagles' combination of awful defense and pass-first offense is a dream scenario for owners of Philadelphia skill players. The Eagles can't stop anyone, forcing the offense to stay aggressive and on its toes. DeSean Jackson has capitalized with back-to-back big games (6-171, 5-86-1), leaping to 12th in scoring among fantasy wideouts. D-Jax has scored a touchdown in three of his last four meetings with Washington. ... Jeremy Maclin leads Philadelphia in targets over the past two weeks and is the No. 10 fantasy wide receiver, ahead of Jackson. Since a slow opener, Maclin has three touchdowns in four weeks and is averaging eight catches for 92 yards per game. ... Steve Smith is no longer a playing-time threat to slot receiver Jason Avant, who has at least eight targets and six receptions in each of his last two games. Purely a possession receiver, Avant may not repeat his Week 5 stat line (9-139) for the rest of the season, but he's a worthwhile bye-week WR3 if you're desperate. While the Redskins rank eighth against the pass, the only truly intimidating passing offense they've faced was Dallas in Week 3, when Tony Romo was hindered by a fractured rib.

Michael Vick's four Week 5 interceptions look ugly in the box score, but none of them came on a bad throw. The first occurred when Vick's screen pass attempt was tipped behind the line, and the second on a protection breakdown when Bills OLB Arthur Moats got a clean blind-side path to the quarterback, crashing into Vick just as he threw. The third came on a delayed inside blitz by rookie ILB Kelvin Sheppard, who again hit Vick right as he released. Pick No. 4 resulted from another tip at the line. Protection problems are concerning, but at least two of Vick's INTs were attributable to bad luck. Vick is still the No. 7 fantasy quarterback and an every-week starter. In his last meeting with Redskins DC Jim Haslett's defense, Vick had an all-time performance (20-28, 333, 4-0; 8-80-2). ... LeSean McCoy is the No. 2 overall fantasy running back and No. 5 overall player in fantasy football. The Redskins' defense is shelling out 4.33 yards per rushing attempt, an average sure to rise after dealing with McCoy. There isn't a more dynamic all-purpose runner in the game today.

Score Prediction: Eagles 30, Redskins 24

Indianapolis @ Cincinnati

A.J. Green was recognized as an every-week rather than spot starter in this space last week, and the playmaking rookie's upward climb continued with 90 yards and a touchdown at Jacksonville. It gets better, because Green may have his most favorable matchup all year in Week 6. Playing the heavy majority snaps on the right side of the offensive formation, Green will square off with Colts LCB Jacob Lacey in a severe mismatch. Lacey was torched in Dwayne Bowe's 7-128-2 game a week ago, consistently losing the physical battle. Lacey is just 5-foot-10, 177, so Green has 34 pounds on him in addition to the obvious height advantage. Look for Colts-Chiefs announcers to hone in on the Green-Lacey matchup during this game. Green is a safe bet to win, and a recommended WR2. Through the season's first five weeks, he's the No. 10 overall fantasy wideout. ... X receiver Jerome Simpson and slot man Andre Caldwell are officially canceling each other out in fantasy football. Neither has topped 50 yards or found pay dirt in the last two weeks.

Cedric Benson's 24-carry, 53-yard game against the Jaguars was discouraging, but a date with the Indy run "defense" should provide a quick remedy. Over the past two weeks, Chiefs and Bucs tailbacks have piled up 333 yards on 60 carries (5.55 YPC) against the Colts, including career special teamer Jackie Battle's breakout game. Benson is getting 21 touches per week, so the volume will be there. If the Bengals' line can open anything close to the massive holes created by K.C.'s front five last week, Benson will have monstrous running lanes, too. ... Jermaine Gresham has scored in back-to-back weeks, but his catch and yardage statistics have been hit or miss. It's conceivable that Gresham will spend much of Week 6 blocking for Benson as the Bengals pursue a run-heavy approach. Against the Colts this year, tight ends have averaged just 41.4 yards per game. Evan Moore, really a slot receiver, is the only tight end to have scored on Indianapolis. ... Andy Dalton is the 20th-ranked fantasy quarterback through five games. While Dalton has shown the ability to deliver passes to Green and, on occasion, Gresham, he's not worth much in fantasy.

Joseph Addai is out with a right hamstring injury, leaving behind Donald Brown and rookie Delone Carter to fight for scraps in an unfavorable matchup. Cincinnati ranks seventh in the league in run defense, permitting 3.19 yards per carry. While Carter is the preferred fantasy fill-in as the favorite for goal-line work -- he scored from three yards out after Addai's first-quarter injury last week -- neither back offers more than desperate flex appeal. Brown thoroughly outplayed Carter from the second quarter on against Kansas City, gaining 38 yards on eight carries and showing superior short-area explosion. Carter defines plodder, netting 14 yards on ten carries after Addai went down, including the score. Carter has been prone to negative runs because he's a pedestrian talent and doesn't make anyone miss. Expect the duo to finish Sunday with a similar amount of touches. ... Dallas Clark dropped three more passes in Week 5, bringing his season total to six. He only has 14 receptions. Clark has often looked like the worst player on the field this year, getting demolished as a blocker and hurting his team more often than not in the passing game.

The Bengals have faced the worst slate of quarterbacks in the league to date, so it's fair to take their No. 3 pass defense and No. 1 total defense rankings with grains of salt. It's still enough to question whether Indy will have passing success in Curtis Painter's first start against an above league-average defense. While Painter has shown NFL-caliber arm strength and a willingness to stand tall in the pocket, he's been incredibly inconsistent quarter-to-quarter. In Week 4, Painter's stats were inflated by over 120 yards of Pierre Garcon's after-catch runs. In Week 5, Painter went in the tank after a big first half, completing 3-of-10 attempts for 40 yards in the final two quarters against Kansas City. We'll learn a lot more about Curtis Painter this week. ... The Colts' target distribution since Painter replaced Kerry Collins: Garcon 16, Reggie Wayne 15, Clark 9, Austin Collie 9. ... Garcon has been a drop- and error-prone receiver in the past, but his production and chemistry with Painter can't be ignored. Garcon also has the best matchup of any Colts wideout this week, squaring off with aging LCB Nate Clements. Wayne will draw RCB Leon Hall for most of this game. Hall has limited Wayne to lines of 3-34-0 and 5-48-0 in their last two meetings.

Score Prediction: Bengals 20, Colts 14

Carolina @ Atlanta

Carolina-Atlanta has this week's second highest over/under, behind only Cowboys-Patriots. Fire up your Panthers and Falcons. ... Cam Newton ranks third among QBs in fantasy scoring, and hasn't fallen beneath the No. 5 spot all year. He's consistent. OC Rob Chudzinski announced Monday that Newton would remain Carolina's goal-line back going forward, so he'll continue to be a confident weekly bet for rushing touchdowns. Through five games, Newton has 13 carries inside opposing 10-yard lines. DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart have combined for just three. ... The No. 3-ranked receiver behind only Wes Welker and Calvin Johnson, Steve Smith has proven his mettle with at least 13.9 fantasy points in 4-of-5 games. Smith matches up most often with right corners and will see RCB Dunta Robinson for much of this game. According to Pro Football Focus, Robinson has allowed 23-of-28 passes to be completed against him (82.1%) this year, for 373 yards and two TDs. It's a great matchup for Smith. ... With a touchdown in three straight games, Greg Olsen is a top-eight scorer at tight end and the possession complement to Smith's deep threat. Atlanta gave up six catches for 89 yards to Packers tight ends last Sunday night.

Brandon LaFell had a touchdown overturned on replay in Week 5, but finished with one catch for 20 yards on two targets. He played a season-low 27 snaps (44.3%). Legedu Naanee played 50 snaps (82%), catching four balls for 63 yards. LaFell could be a bye-week WR3 if he were getting more playing time, but until something changes he's a WR5/6. ... While DeAngelo Williams did well to break two tackles after an option pitch from Newton for a 69-yard touchdown in Week 5 -- his first score of the year -- little has changed in Carolina's M.I.A. backfield. Williams still hasn't exceeded 13 touches in any game this season, and committee partner Jonathan Stewart only got seven last week. Up next is Atlanta's eighth-ranked run defense, a unit surrendering just 3.48 yards per carry. With DT Jonathan Babineaux and SLB Stephen Nicholas back from injuries last Sunday night, the Falcons held James Starks and Ryan Grant to 58 yards on 19 attempts (3.05 YPC), without a score. Williams and Stewart are flex options only. They just don't get the rock enough.

Harry Douglas is the probable starter in place of Julio Jones (hamstring), but Tony Gonzalez might be the top fantasy beneficiary. Jones has primarily been a deep threat so far. Look for Roddy White to run few longer routes, opening up underneath stuff for Gonzo. The Panthers just got destroyed by Jimmy Graham (8-129). Gonzo is the No. 3 fantasy tight end and an every-week starter. ... White still projects as a target monster with Jones out of the lineup. Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling rank Roddy seventh among fantasy wideouts for Week 6. ... This is a great matchup for Michael Turner to break off a long run or two and score multiple touchdowns. Carolina ranks 27th against the run, gift-wrapping 4.86 yards per carry. Turner faces the Lions and Colts after this, but it's going to be sell-high time soon. ... Matt Ryan has been a major fantasy disappointment, and he missed way too many open downfield throws in last week's loss to Green Bay. He's still a strong low-end QB1 play against a Panthers defense allowing a league-high 8.7 yards per pass attempt.

Score Prediction: Panthers 27, Falcons 24

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