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  Rushing Matchups  

Week 18 Passing Matchups

[CAR] [CIN] [JAX] [NE] [NYG] [PIT] [TB] [WAS]


PLEASE NOTE: This does NOT replace the Cheatsheet ranking. The Cheatsheet rankings are the final say on where we see a player for that week. The Matchup Breakdowns are simply one more tool in the box when it comes to helping choose your lineup.

Also note, just because a player has a "bad" matchup, it does NOT mean he's not a starter in your league. If Peyton Manning is playing the toughest pass defense in the league, that just means he's got a tough matchup that week. He's also your starter unless you're loaded at QB. In the same way, if the worst QB on your roster has a "great" matchup that week, it doesn't necessarily mean he's your starter. It means we think he'll fare better than normal that week.

Bottom line is that the cheatsheets are the final say.


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense at New York Giants Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

These teams played each other in the pre-season (week 3, at Giants' Stadium), and while pre-season isn't considered terribly important, week 3 of the preseason is the game when the starters usually see significant action. Back on August 20th, Jake Delhomme tossed 15/19 for 146 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions - Steve Smith, as usual, led the team with 8/69/0 to his credit.

During the regular season, Delhomme and Smith have developed into one of the premier QB/WR connections in the NFL - Delhomme tossed 262/435 for 3421 yards, 24 TDs and 16 interceptions over 16 games, while Smith hauled in an NFL-best 103/1563/12, to lead all three categories (receptions, yards and TDs). Over the past 3 weeks, Delhomme tossed 41/72 for 599 yards, 5 TDs and 2 interceptions (1/2/1 rushing) to rank 2nd at his position in fantasy points per game during that span of time. Smith handled 16/243/2 (2nd best fantasy WR in the land) during those weeks, while his compatriot Ricky Proehl has elevated his production to notch 5/133/2 in that span (30th fantasy WR). Last week, Delhomme only needed 14/20 for 163 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions during the 44-11 blowout of Atlanta - Steve Smith was the Falcon-killer, with 9/131/1, while Proehl was second on the team with 3/29/1.

The Giants' secondary has been in the NFL cellar all year long, averaging 224.0 passing yards allowed per game (27th in the NFL) - they are tied for 8th in the NFL with 41 sacks, though (Carolina is in the top 10 in sacks-allowed this year, giving up 28 to date, which is tied for 7th-best in the NFL). Over the final 3 weeks of the season, the Giants averaged 232.6 passing yards allowed per game, with 10 TDs (rushing and receiving) handed over - they generated only 2 interceptions and 5 sacks during those weeks. The Giants haven't been bringing as much pressure to bear on opposing passers during recent weeks. Last week, Kerry Collins was sacked 3 times, but he still threw for 26/48 for 331 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. his old team-mates.

Despite New York's considerable home-field advantage, the Panthers have a great matchup in this phase of the game - New York's pass defense is very suspect.

Weather: This game is scheduled for 1 PM ET on Sunday, which should put temperatures near the high end of the forecast for Giants' Stadium: 38F is forecast to be the high, with a low of 31F and a 20% chance of precipitation. That's pretty decent weather for this time of year - as long as the forecast holds up.

CAR Injuries: RB DeShaun Foster (Questionable), RB Brad Hoover (Questionable)
NYG Injuries: DL William Joseph (Probable), DL Reggie Torbor (Questionable), DL Fred Robbins (Doubtful), DL Eric Moore (Doubtful), LB Antonio Pierce (Out)


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense at Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

These teams are very familiar with each other as they are AFC North rivals - they split the season series during 2005 with Pittsburgh winning at Cincinnati 27-13 (week 7, October 23rd) while Cincinnati won the rematch in Pittsburgh 38-31 (week 13, December 4th). Ben Roethlisberger played two entirely different games against the Bengals (although he tossed multiple TDs in both games), with 9/14 for 93 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception to his credit in week 7 - he hit only 2 receivers all game (6/58/1 to TE Heath Miller, and 3/35/1 to Hines Ward). Then, in week 13, Roethlisberger aired it out for 29/41 for 386 yards, 3 TDs and 3 interceptions, hitting 9 different targets led by Hines Ward (9/135/2) - Quincy Morgan handled the other TD with 1/25/1. It will be interesting to see how this rubber match develops, although Pittsburgh's offense usually leans towards something like the first set of numbers due to their "run-first" mentality.

Roethlisberger has struggled during the closing 3 weeks of regular season, with 30/51 for 510 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions during that span (9/12/2 rushing has helped keep him in the top 20 fantasy QBs, at #20) - he has been up and down since suffering the thumb injury to his throwing hand (he did toss his best game vs. Cincinnati after the injury). Last week, he managed an anemic 7/16 for 135 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions (3/5/1 rushing) vs. the Lions - Heath Miller (3/62/0) and Hines Ward (1/40/0) led the team in receiving during the game. Ward handled the lone scoring throw during that span, and ranks 40th among fantasy WRs with 10/156/1 to his credit. There hasn't been much to be excited about lately if you own Steeler receivers.

Cincinnati has a way of making opposing passing attacks look pretty good, ranking 26th in the NFL giving up an average of 223.1 yards per game, while putting up only 28 QB sacks this season (#28 in the NFL). Over the past 3 weeks, they've averaged 278 passing yards allowed per game, with 4 interceptions and 6 sacks vs. 8 TDs surrendered (rushing and receiving). That's not too good, folks. Last week, Trent Green lit up the Cincinnati pass D for 23/29 for 344 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions. They are very vulnerable in this phase of the game, even though they have hauled in a lot of interceptions this year (31, a total which leads the NFL, and 7 more than 2nd-place Chicago snagged).

The Bengals are suspect when it comes to pass defense, but Roethlisberger hasn't been at the top of his game for quite a while, either. On balance, we think this is a good matchup for the Steelers.

Weather: Paul Brown Stadium expects a high of 51F with a low of 37F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday. The game is set for 4:30 PM, so the temperature should be on the warm end of the scale to start with - weather conditions shouldn't be a huge deal for either team.

PIT Injuries: QB Ben Roethlisberger (Probable)
CIN Injuries: DL Bryan Robinson (Probable), DL Shaun Smith (Probable), DB Deltha O'Neal (Probable)


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

These teams are very familiar with each other as they are AFC North rivals - they split the season series during 2005 with Pittsburgh winning at Cincinnati 27-13 (week 7, October 23rd) while Cincinnati won the rematch in Pittsburgh 38-31 (week 13, December 4th). Carson Palmer struggled to make good things happen back in week 7 (21/36 for 227 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions), but rebounded in week 13 with 22/38 for 227 yards, 3 TDs and 2 interceptions). Chad Johnson (4/94/0 week 7, 5/54/0 week 13) and T.J. Houshmandzadeh (7/75/0 week 7, 5/8/2 week 13) were the top 2 Bengal receivers in both of the contests.

Palmer finished the season as the #1 fantasy QB in total points, with 345/509 for 3836 yards, 32 TDs and 12 interceptions to his credit, while Chad Johnson was 4th in the league with 97/1432/9 and T.J. Houshmandzadeh was 14th at his position with 78/956/7 receiving (14 games). Over the final 3 weeks of the regular season, Palmer 58/83 for 594 yards, 5 TDs and 4 interceptions, including a cameo appearance in week 17 (5/8 for 54 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions) that skews his 3-week average downwards. Chad Johnson piled up 24/271/2 in the closing 3 weeks of the year (5th best fantasy WR) - Houshmandzadeh was 38th with 16/160/1. The Bengals sport one of the NFL's elite passing offenses.

Pittsburgh stumbled in this phase of the game to close the season, giving up 17/33 for 212 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions to the erratic Joey Harrington, with only 1 sack to their credit. However, the Steelers have only allowed 3 TDs during the last 3 weeks (all to Harrington last week), while generating 11 sacks and 2 interceptions - they had an off week to close the season, and still won the game 35-21. During that span of time, the Steelers averaged 152.3 passing yards surrendered per game, compared to their season average of 198 passing yards given up per contest (16th in the NFL) - they tied for 3rd this year with 47 QB sacks (the Bengals only gave up 21 sacks this year, though, the 2nd-least in the NFL).

The Steelers were stouter than usual vs. the pass in the closing weeks of the season, but they've been up and down vs. Palmer this year. Their strength in this phase of the game, sacking the opposing QB, is an area where the Bengals aren't very vulnerable - on balance, this looks like a neutral matchup to us, with neither team holding a big advantage.

Weather: Paul Brown Stadium expects a high of 51F with a low of 37F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday. The game is set for 4:30 PM, so the temperature should be on the warm end of the scale to start with - weather conditions shouldn't be a huge deal for either team.

CIN Injuries: RB Nicolas Luchey (Probable), WR Chris Henry (Probable)
PIT Injuries: DL Travis Kirschke (Questionable), LB James Harrison (Probable), LB Andre Frazier (Questionable), DB Chidi Iwuoma (Probable), DB Deshea Townsend (Probable)


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

These teams haven't met in the regular season for the past 2 years, and didn't meet in the pre-season of 2005 either - they aren't nearly as familiar with each other as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the other AFC wild-card matchup.

Byron Leftwich seems poised to come back from his broken ankle/high ankle sprain for this playoff matchup - he's taking virtually all the snaps with the first team in practice this week, while David Garrard is back to just a few opportunities (they basically split snaps with the first team leading up to the season finale, vs. Tennessee). Said coach Del Rio "The old saying, 'It is what it is,' so we'll see. He's preparing to play, and as long as I feel he can protect himself and give us the best chance to win, then he'll play." Leftwich hasn't played for 6 weeks, so the "rust" factor could be an issue for him this week. Before his injury, Leftwich had tossed 175/302 for 2123 yards, 15 TDs and 5 interceptions, and was increasingly comfortable throwing to Ernest Wilford and Matt Jones, to the detriment of Jimmy Smith's receiving numbers - once Leftwich went down, Smith became Garrard's "main man", although Wilford saw 19 targets to Smith's 26 over the final three weeks of the season. They converted their chances to 8/186/2 for Wilford during those closing weeks (15th best fantasy WR) compared to 15/187/0 for Smith (47th ranked fantasy WR).

The Patriots have struggled all year long to field healthy players in their secondary, and it shows in the final season statistics - New England was 26th in total yards allowed per game this season (330.2), and ranked 31st in the NFL in passing yards surrendered per game, with an average of 231.4 given up. They were #23 in QB sacks, with 33 to date. However, in the closing weeks of the regular season, their personnel returned to health, by and large, and they were much better at pass defense. The led the entire league with 13 sacks during the final 3 games, and only gave up an average of 156.3 passing yards per game. The team surrendered 4 TDs in the final 3 weeks (rushing and receiving). Coming into this wild card playoff game, the Patriots' pass D is in perhaps the best shape it has been all season. Gus Frerotte managed 22/39 for 239 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions against them last week, but the Pats rested several key players in anticipation of the playoffs.

Leftwich will need to watch out for the reinvigorated Patriots pass rush, as his line is only mediocre at pass blocking, ranking 15th (t) in the NFL allowing 32 sacks to date. With Leftwich coming off an extended layoff and the Patriots enjoying a resurgent defense and home-field advantage, we think this looks like a tough matchup for the warm-weather Jaguars, who will be playing at night in Gillette Stadium this week.

Weather: This game is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET, so temperatures at Gillette Stadium will start at the cool end of the forecast and grow colder as the game progresses - however, the forecast isn't terrible (for New England), with an expected high of 32F and a low of 12F, with a 20% chance of precipitation. The ball will be hard and slick in below-freezing temperatures, which will make ball handling more difficult than usual for both teams, although New England is more accustomed to extreme temperatures than the Jacksonville squad.

JAX Injuries: QB Byron Leftwich (Probable), RB Greg Jones (Probable), RB Rich Alexis (Probable)
NE Injuries: DL Jarvis Green (Probable), LB Tedy Bruschi (Questionable), DB Artrell Hawkins (Probable), DB Asante Samuel (Probable)


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

These teams haven't met in the regular season for the past 2 years, and didn't meet in the pre-season of 2005 either - they aren't nearly as familiar with each other as Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, the other AFC wild-card matchup.

Tom Brady has been the rock on which the Patriots' season was built, racking up 334/530 for 4110 yards, 26 TDs and 14 interceptions - 2nd in the NFL in fantasy points at his position this year - during sections of the season, the running game was very poor, and Brady had to manufacture most of the team's offense without much run support. As always, the Patriots spread the ball around a lot in this phase of the game, led by WR Deion Branch who hauled in 78/998/5 to lead all New England receivers in fantasy points per game. Over the past 3 weeks, Brady hit 41/68 for 480 yards, 6 TDs and 2 interceptions, including last week's totals of 3/8 for 37 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception vs. Miami. He's been as efficient as usual during the closing weeks of the season, as you can see.

The Jaguars were 6th in the NFL in total yards allowed per game this season (290.9), while ranking #7 vs. opposing passers, holding them to an average of 184.1 yards per game. The Jags were tied for 3rd in the NFL with 47 QB sacks, and racked up 7 sacks and 3 interceptions vs. 4 TDs allowed (rushing and receiving) during the final 3 weeks of the regular season, while averaging 180.3 passing yards given up per game. Tennessee managed 21/39 for 179 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception vs. these guys last week. The Jaguars sport one of the top pass defenses in the NFL.

The Patriots aren't porous when it comes to pass protection, currently tied for 7th in the NFL with 28 sacks given up to date - Brady shouldn't be nailed too often. Even with home-field advantage at his back, we think Brady will still have his hands full with the scrappy Jaguars.

Weather: This game is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET, so temperatures at Gillette Stadium will start at the cool end of the forecast and grow colder as the game progresses - however, the forecast isn't terrible (for New England), with an expected high of 32F and a low of 12F, with a 20% chance of precipitation. The ball will be hard and slick in below-freezing temperatures, which will make ball handling more difficult than usual for both teams, although New England is more accustomed to extreme temperatures than the Jacksonville squad.

NE Injuries: QB Tom Brady (Probable), RB Corey Dillon (Probable), RB Heath Evans (Probable), RB Patrick Pass (Probable), WR Bethel Johnson (Probable), TE Christian Fauria (Probable), TE Daniel Graham (Probable)
JAX Injuries: DL Reggie Hayward (Questionable), DL Paul Spicer (Questionable), LB Mike Peterson (Questionable), DB Kenny Wright (Probable)


New York Giants Passing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

These teams played each other in the pre-season (week 3, at Giants' Stadium), and while pre-season isn't considered terribly important, week 3 of the preseason is the game when the starters usually see significant action. Eli Manning didn't complete a lot of passes against the Panthers that day, with 3/9, but he made the completions count, with 150 yards and 2 TDs arising from the 3 connections. David Tyree hauled in a 90-yard TD and Amani Toomer snagged a 41-yard score from Manning that day.

Manning has been on a roller coaster this season, with some great games and some duds - last week, he tossed 12/24 for 204 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. Oakland, favoring Plaxico Burress with 12 targets for 5/128/1 (Amani Toomer only had 1 ball come his way last week) and tossing 7 balls for 6/60/0 to Tiki Barber. Jeremy Shockey missed the finale due to his injured ankle - coach Coughlin indicated after the game that he is "very hopeful" that Shockey can return for the wild-card round of the playoffs. Keep an eye on Shockey's practice participation/injury status during the latter part of this week - he's a key guy for the Giants' offense. During the final 3 weeks of the regular season, Manning compiled 52/97 for 634 yards, 3 TDs and 2 interceptions to rank 19th at his position in fantasy points per game. He tossed 1 TD per game during that span, with a high-water mark of 244 passing yards in week 16, vs. Washington.

Carolina brings the 3rd-ranked defense in the league to this contest, allowing an average of 282.6 total yards per game. They are #9 vs. the pass, giving up 191.1 yards per game on average, and rank 7th in the NFL this season with 45 sacks to their credit. In the closing 3 weeks of the regular season, the Panthers were very tough on opposing QBs, with 11 sacks and 6 interceptions during that span (tied for the most interceptions during that span) - they also had the ball bounce their way several times as they scooped up 6 fumble recoveries in that span. Carolina averaged 182.6 passing yards allowed per game during the final 3 weeks, finishing with 24/37 for 225 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception handed over to Atlanta in the course of their 44-11 defeat of the Falcons - over the last 3 games, the Panthers gave up 5 TDs total (rushing and receiving). They've been playing at the top of their game to close the season.

Manning has been mediocre during the season's final weeks, while the Panthers have played outstanding defense - this looks like a tough matchup for the Giants (if Shockey can't go, then we'd consider it a bad matchup for New York).

Weather: This game is scheduled for 1 PM ET on Sunday, which should put temperatures near the high end of the forecast for Giants' Stadium: 38F is forecast to be the high, with a low of 31F and a 20% chance of precipitation. That's pretty decent weather for this time of year - as long as the forecast holds up.

NYG Injuries: WR Tim Carter (Questionable), TE Jeremy Shockey (Questionable)
CAR Injuries: LB Dan Morgan (Questionable), LB Brandon Short (Questionable)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense vs Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Back in week 10, these teams battled to a 36-35 decision that went Tampa Bay's way in the game's final minute, on a 2-pt conversion run in by Mike Alstott from the 1 (set up by 2 key defensive penalties on Washington). Chris Simms played magnificently vs. Washington's secondary during the game, with 15/29 for 279 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions, marking his best game during 2005 in terms of scoring throws. Joey Galloway (7/131/1), Edell Shepherd (3/87/1) and Ike Hilliard (3/37/1) all snagged scoring throws - with Michael Clayton already ruled out of this week's game due to a turf toe injury, those same 3 aforementioned WRs are expected to carry the load during the wild card matchup.

To close the season, Simms tossed 12/23 for 145 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the Saints - he's piled up 62/101 for 583 yards, 4 TDs and 2 interceptions over the final 3 weeks of regular season, and looks like a steady, seasoned veteran signal caller coming into the playoffs. He and Joey Galloway (83/1287/10 receiving this season, #5 among fantasy WRs to date) continue to be as simpatico as always - Simms hit him for both scores last week (4/38/2) and has targeted Galloway 30 times in the past 3 weeks for 16/173/2 in that span. TE Alex Smith was second-fiddle during that span, with 21 targets for 13/123/0. The Buccaneers are getting what they need out of their passing attack.

The Redskins ranked 10th in the NFL vs. the pass this past season, allowing 192.6 passing yards per game, and were #20 in QB sacks, with 35 to their credit (Tampa was below average at pass blocking, giving up 41 sacks to rank 19th (t) in the league). Over the past 3 weeks, Washington has turned up the heat on opposing signal callers, with 12 sacks and 6 interceptions vs. only 4 TDs (rushing and receiving) handed over. There is a vulnerability on Tampa's part to pass pressure that the Redskins can exploit this week - look for Simms to see a lot of guys in his face. The Redskins have averaged 193 passing yards allowed per game over the past 3 weeks, right on their usual pace, including last week's totals of 21/42 for 261 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions surrendered to Philadelphia.

The Redskins will do their best to rattle Simms on Saturday - but he didn't rattle the last time these teams played, and that's a hopeful sign for Bucs fans. Even with home field advantage at his back, this looks like a tougher-than-usual matchup for Simms and company - the resurgent Redskins' defenders will give Tampa a rough time before this one is over.

Weather: This game, scheduled for 4:30 PM ET on Saturday, should enjoy very nice weather conditions - the forecast for Raymond James Stadium calls for a high of 56F with a low of 36F and a 10% chance for precipitation - cool, crisp weather is on tap for this showdown between Tampa Bay and Washington.

TB Injuries: WR Michael Clayton (Out)
WAS Injuries: DL Renaldo Wynn (Probable), DB Shawn Springs (Questionable)


Washington Redskins Passing Offense at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Back in week 10, these teams battled to a 36-35 decision that went Tampa Bay's way in the game's final minute, on a 2-pt conversion run in by Mike Alstott from the 1 (set up by 2 key defensive penalties on Washington). Mark Brunell distributed 23/35 for 226 yards, 2 TDs and 2 interceptions to 9 different Redskins (and 2 Tampa players, one of whom was DE Simeon Rice - the other interception went to CB Juran Bolden). Santana Moss led the team in receiving yardage, with 4/79/0, but RBs Mike Sellers (1/7/1) and Ladell Betts (3/19/1) handled the TD tosses.

Over the final weeks of 2005, Brunell has struggled to play through a MCL injury that was surely a factor in his closing performance week 17 (9/25 for 141 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception) - he relied on Santana Moss, as usual, for the bulk of the receiving yards (4/83/0), but hit Mike Sellers for the TD (1/5/1). Brunell has managed 28/56 for 416 yards, 7 TDs and 2 interceptions during the last 3 weeks of the regular season - 4 of the TDs were thrown against Dallas, before he injured his knee, though. We'll see if he can get the knee into better shape before the coming playoff tilt vs. Tampa.

The Buccaneers sport the NFL's #1 ranked defense, allowing only 277.8 total yards per game, and they are #6 vs. the pass, averaging 183.1 passing yards surrendered per contest. Over the past 3 weeks, they've been pacing 205 passing yards allowed per game (Tom Brady blew them up for 3 passing scores a few weeks back, and Todd Bouman finished his short campaign under center with 25/37 for 265 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions vs. Tampa Bay last week), with 9 sacks and 2 interceptions to their credit, vs. 8 TDs allowed. The Buccaneers were not up to their usual lofty standards in this phase of the game during the closing weeks of the regular season.

In the Buccaneer's house, expect the 12th man to be a factor in this game - we think this looks like a tough matchup for the hobbled Brunell, who was only mediocre against the Bucs the last time around the block.

Weather: This game, scheduled for 4:30 PM ET on Saturday, should enjoy very nice weather conditions - the forecast for Raymond James Stadium calls for a high of 56F with a low of 36F and a 10% chance for precipitation - cool, crisp weather is on tap for this showdown between Tampa Bay and Washington.

WAS Injuries: none
TB Injuries: DL Simeon Rice (Probable), DB Jermaine Phillips (Questionable)




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