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  Rushing Matchups  

Week 20 Passing Matchups

[CAR] [DEN] [PIT] [SEA]


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 Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Jake Delhomme closed the regular season hot (41/72 for 599 yards, 5 TDs and 2 interceptions over the final 3 games of the season), and he's burned through the playoffs too (39/55 for 459 yards, 4 TDs and 1 interception during the first 2 rounds) - last week he blistered the Bears for 24/33 for 319 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception, hooking up with all-world receiver Steve Smith for 12/218/2 on 13 targets (Smith has snagged 22 of the 24 passes thrown his way during the post-season, for 22/302/3 in the first 2 games). Drew Carter (2/43/0 receiving so far during post-season), Keary Colbert (3/40/0), Ricky Proehl (3/28/0) and Kris Mangum (2/12/1) are in the mix just enough to force opposing defenses to cover them - Smith is the Panthers' top weapon in this phase of the game.

Seattle fielded the league's 25th ranked pass defense this season, allowing an average of 222.4 yards per game and 18 passing scores during regular season. They coughed up 308.6 passing yards per contest during the final 3 weeks of the regular season, which was not impressive. However, they were first in the NFL with 50 sacks (recording 5 during the final 3 weeks of the regular season while resting key players for much of that stretch) - Mark Brunell was dumped twice last week, and held to 22/37 for 242 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions. Seattle didn't shut Brunell down, but they did improve comparted to their final 3 regular season efforts. Overall, this secondary is sub-par despite the excellent pass-pressure exerted by the defensive front. Carolina, who got Jake Delhomme pummeled by Chicago during regular season allowing 8 sacks, held the Bears to only 1 sack last week and looked pretty stout at pass-blocking. They were tied for 7th during regular season with only 28 sacks allowed over 16 games - Carolina is usually not very susceptible to pass pressure.

Delhomme and Smith are on fire, while the Seahawks are on balance merely mediocre - Delhomme and company have a good opportunity to make things happen in this phase of the game, if the pass-blocking can hold up.

Weather: The forecast for Qwest Field calls for a high of 47F with a low of 35F and a 30% chance of precipitation. As we saw last week, if the rain comes down consistently before and during the game, ball handling and footing are likely to be issues for both teams. This game is set for 6:30 P.M. ET (3:30 P.M. PT) - temperatures should be near the high at kickoff, then declining as the contest continues. The extended forecast calls for either "rain" or "occasional showers" Friday through Sunday, so it is likely that the field will be soggy again this week.

CAR Injuries: RB Brad Hoover (Questionable), RB DeShaun Foster (Out)
SEA Injuries: DL Robert Bernard (Questionable)


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense at Denver Broncos Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger has been great during the post-season this year, with 28/43 for 405 yards, 5 TDs and 1 interception to his credit during the first 2 post-season games. Last week, he shot out of the gates early in the game, tossing 2 first-quarter TDs to lift Pittsburgh to a 14-0 lead (the eventually won 21-18). However, as we mentioned last week, his throwing hand is susceptible to being aggravated due to his thumb injury - last week, there was speculation that he may have added a wrist problem to the thumb situation as he looked pained on the sidelines, and only attempted 6 passes during the entire 2nd half. With a big lead, the Steelers routinely run the ball a lot, but Roethlisberger dodged questions about his throwing hand/wrist after the game. In any case, he ended the game with 14/24 for 197 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception passing, hitting 4 different receivers for 3 completions each: Antwaan Randle El had 6 targets for 3/30/1; Hines Ward saw 6 for 3/68/0; Heath Miller handled 3 for 3/61/1; and Willie Parker saw 3 targets for 3/19/0. Cedrick Wilson, who posted 3/104/1 during the wild-card playoff game vs. Cincinnati, caught 0 balls last week (he actually hauled in 1 reception for 0 yards, but the play was nullified by a defensive penalty).

Denver did not play well vs. opposing passers during most of the season, giving up an average of 227.7 passing yards per game (#29 in the NFL) with 20 passing scores allowed over 16 games. They tied for 28th in the NFL with only 28 sacks all year long (Seattle was #1 with 50). However, the Broncos closed regular season with 8 sacks (and 2 interceptions) vs. 3 TDs given up (rushing and receiving) - the heat on opposing passers was turned up during the final weeks of the regular season. In the closing 3 weeks of regular season, the team averaged 167.6 net passing yards allowed per game. Last week, though, Tom Brady slapped down 20/36 for 341 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions vs. the Broncos, without suffering a single sack (although the Denver defenders did their best to harrass him continually during the game, they never did manage to put him on the ground with the ball in his hands). Denver's pass defense is sub-par, but capable of making a big play now and again (Champ Bailey's 100 yard interception return being the most recent example).

The Broncos are suspect in this phase of the game, and don't bring much pass pressure to bear most weeks - this is a good matchup for Roethlisberger and company, despite the huge home-field advantage that Denver enjoys at Mile High Stadium.

Weather: The forecast for Mile High Stadium calls for a high of 42F with a low of 24F and a 20% chance of precipitation. As the game is set for 3 P.M. ET (1 P.M. MT), temperatures should be near the high water mark for most of the game. As long as the precipitation holds off and the wind doesn't kick up, weather conditions shouldn't be a huge factor in this matchup. The long-range forecast is calling for plenty of sun - you can't ask for much more on the high plains during January.

PIT Injuries: QB Ben Roethlisberger (Probable)
DEN Injuries: DL Courtney Brown (Probable), LB Keith Burns (Probable), LB Al Wilson (Probable), DB Darrent Williams (Probable)


Denver Broncos Passing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Jake Plummer closed the regular season with 47/80 for 618 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception in his final 3 games, while Rod Smith handled 17/239/1 during that span - last week, they extended their productive partnership with 15/26 for 197 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception thrown by Plummer, with 8 targets for 6/96/1 going to Smith. Ashley Lelie turned 11 chances into 5/50/0 last week, while Jeb Putzier handled 4 balls for 3/37/0. These three players are the main weapons in Plummer's receiving arsenal. Look for Smith to headline again this week, unless the Steelers can find an answer for his abilities.

Pittsburgh gave up 25/41 for 263 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions to Cincinnati's backup QB (excepting one completion) during the wild-card round. They followed up by mercilessly blitzing Peyton Manning last week (5 sacks vs. the league's #1 pass-blocking offensive line), while giving up 22/38 for 290 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions. They were mediocre vs. opposing passers throughout 2005, averaging 198.0 passing yards given away per game (16th in the NFL) with 15 TDs handed over over 16 games. To close the regular season, the Steelers gave up an average of only 152.3 passsing yards per game over the final 3 weeks (with 11 sacks to their credit in the final 3 games). Pittsburgh does pressure the opposing passer, ranking 3rd (tie) in the NFL with 47 sacks to their credit, and they proved they can do it against the best last week with their superb scheme/execution vs. Manning. However, the Broncos were 3rd in the NFL during regular season with only 23 sacks given up all year long, so Pittsburgh will find it a challenge to dump Plummer as often as they did Manning last week. We're not saying they can't do it, just that it won't be easy to do so.

Denver has home-field advantage, and the weather is supposed to be pretty decent - they also have solid pass-protection, which should help neutralize the Steelers' ferocious blitzing. On balance, this looks like a neutral matchup to us.

Weather: The forecast for Mile High Stadium calls for a high of 42F with a low of 24F and a 20% chance of precipitation. As the game is set for 3 P.M. ET (1 P.M. MT), temperatures should be near the high water mark for most of the game. As long as the precipitation holds off and the wind doesn't kick up, weather conditions shouldn't be a huge factor in this matchup. The long-range forecast is calling for plenty of sun - you can't ask for much more on the high plains during January.

DEN Injuries: WR Todd Devoe (Probable), TE Stephen Alexander (Probable)
PIT Injuries: DL Travis Kirschke (Probable), DL Kimo von Oelhoffen (Probable), LB James Farrior (Probable), LB Larry Foote (Probable), LB Joey Porter (Probable), LB James Harrison (Doubtful), DB Chidi Iwuoma (Probable), DB Deshea Townsend (Probable)


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Darrell Jackson, in spite of numerous injuries and aches (his jaw and back were hurt on hard hits during the game last week, and his surgically repaired knee is still painful), helped Matt Hasselbeck carry the Seahawks past Washington after losing Shaun Alexander early in the contest - Jackson threw down for 9/143/1 (catching every ball that Hasselbeck tossed him). Hasselbeck, who threw 44/56 for 529 yards, 5 TDs and 0 interceptions during the final 3 weeks of regular season, followed up with 16/26 for 215 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Redskins in the divisional round of the playoffs. TE Jerramy Stevens (2/13/0 last week) and WRs Joe Jurevicius (1/31/0) and Bobby Engram (2/11/0) chipped in around the edges of Jackson's big game.

Carolina decimated the Giants during the wild card round, holding Eli Manning to 10/18 for 113 yards, 0 TDs and 3 interceptions and relegating Plaxico Burress to 0/0/0. The Panthers followed up with a less-impressive performance vs. Rex Grossman, who looked utterly lost for about a quarter but eventually got on track, ending with 17/41 for 192 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. Carolina averaged 182.6 net passing yards allowed per game during the final 3 weeks of the regular season, and threw down 11 sacks with 6 interceptions and 6 fumble recoveries, vs. 5 TDs allowed in the final 3 weeks. They were #9 vs. the pass during 2005, averaging 191.1 passing yards given up per game, and handed over 15 thrown TDs in 16 games. Last week's game vs. Chicago was right on this top-ten pace, as you can see. Carolina fields an above-average, but not elite, pass defense. The Panthers were 7th in the NFL with 45 sacks during regular season, but only managed 1 sack last week - Seattle tied for 5th over 16 games with only 27 sacks allowed.

Hasselbeck comes into this game on a hot streak, but the Panthers are very good at defensing the passing game. This looks like a tougher-than-usual assignment for the NFC West champs.

Weather: The forecast for Qwest Field calls for a high of 47F with a low of 35F and a 30% chance of precipitation. As we saw last week, if the rain comes down consistently before and during the game, ball handling and footing are likely to be issues for both teams. This game is set for 6:30 P.M. ET (3:30 P.M. PT) - temperatures should be near the high at kickoff, then declining as the contest continues. The extended forecast calls for either "rain" or "occasional showers" Friday through Sunday, so it is likely that the field will be soggy again this week.

SEA Injuries: RB Shaun Alexander (Probable), WR Bobby Engram (Questionable), WR Darrell Jackson (Questionable)
CAR Injuries: DL Jordan Carstens (Probable), DL Kindal Moorehead (Questionable), DL Julius Peppers (Questionable), DB Mike Minter (Probable)




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