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  Rushing Matchups  

Week 9 Passing Matchups

[ARI] [ATL] [BAL] [CAR] [CHI] [CIN] [CLE] [DET] [GB] [HOU] [IND] [JAX] [KC] [MIA] [MIN] [NE] [NO] [NYG] [NYJ] [OAK] [PHI] [PIT] [SD] [SEA] [SF] [TB] [TEN] [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.


Detroit Lions Passing Offense at Minnesota Vikings Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Coach Mariucci declared on Monday that the Lions' starters would be claimed by the top-performing receivers. "We are going to have competition at these (receiver) spots." Regarding Charles Rogers, he said ""He should be in great shape because he's been working for a month. He is not behind. He hasn't caught passes from our quarterbacks, but he has caught 150 balls a day from either friends or the JUGS Machine or somebody. He should be rearing to go, to be honest with you - fresh legs, actually. Then we have to decide what role will he play for us." In other words, the starters for Detroit are up in the air as of mid-week. Neither Roy Williams (returning this week from injury 12/187/1 off 32 targets during 4 games before the injury) or Rogers (returning from a 4-game substance abuse suspension, 5/77/0 out of 14 targets during 3 games before the suspension) were wowing us before they left the lineup, though.

Keep an eye on Garcia's health. He was banged up early and the word was that Joey Harrington might get the start if Garcia is not healthy enough to go. If he can go, Garcia hopes to play better on Sunday with more targets at his disposal - last week, he managed 23/35 for 197 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception against the Browns. Over the past 3 weeks (2 games, since he took over for Harrington) Garcia is the 24th ranked fantasy QB in the land with 45/69 for 407 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. We'll see if he improves with Roy Williams and Rogers added to Mike Williams (3/27/0) and Scottie Vines (5/61/0) for choices in the passing game. Check Garcia's health status as the week progresses.

This week, Viking's starting CB Antoine Winfield openly criticized the Minnesota defensive coaching staff, saying "Some plays, guys are out of position. But it's the scheme too. The coaches are handcuffing us. We played a lot of three-deep coverage, so we're going to give up a lot. We mix in some man (coverage). But we're putting eight in the box. We need to be more aggressive...We need to go back to the drawing board, work on the basics. We256.6 had communication problems out there...It just looks sloppy. I mean, it's not even fun."

There's no doubt it's not fun to be a Viking DB - the team is tied for 3rd most TD passes allowed this year (14), and they are 23rd in the league vs. the pass to date, giving up 224 passing yards per game on average. Over the past 3 weeks, they've given up 767 passing yards total (an average of 256.6 per contest) and have coughed up 11 total TDs during that span (rushing and receiving) - tied for worst in the league. Last week, they were blasted by Carolina's Jake Delhomme to the tune of 21/31 for 341 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions (Steve Smith humiliated Fred Smoot and company for 11/201/1). This unit is playing terrible football right now, folks.

Detroit didn't explode for fantasy points once Jeff Garcia got under center, but a lot of potential is rejoining the attack this week in the persons of Roy Williams and Rogers - meanwhile, the Vikings secondary is playing horribly. Advantage, Detroit.

Weather: Inside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, we expect conditions to be perfect. Weather won't be a factor in this matchup.

DET Injuries: QB Jeff Garcia (Questionable), RB Paul Smith (Doubtful), WR Roy Williams (Questionable), WR Mike Williams (Questionable)
MIN Injuries: LB Napoleon Harris (Probable), DB Fred Smoot (Probable)


New York Giants Passing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Tiki Barber rampaged through the Redskins' defense last week, but Eli Manning and company also got into the act with 12/31 for 146 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception through the air. Jeremy Shockey pulled down the score on 3/29/1, while Toomer and Burress chipped in 40+ yards each (2/43/0 and 4/42/0, respectively). Over the past 3 weeks, Manning has thrown for 49/103 for 575 yards, 4 TDs and 3 interceptions to rank 18th among all fantasy QBs in points per game (3 games played). They are mounting a steadily effective, but not explosive, passing attack during recent weeks.

The 49ers pass D has been woeful most of the year, giving up an average of 314.7 yards per outing - worst in the league - while tying for 2nd-most passing scores allowed with 16 surrendered to date. However, last week they elevated their game against journeyman Chris Simms, "holding" the Buccaneers to 21/34 for 264 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions. Normally, allowing 264 yards wouldn't be a good thing, but in the case of the 2005 49ers it represents a significant improvement, sadly enough.

Manning and company have a great shot at a solid game out by the Bay this week.

Weather: Out by the Bay, the 49ers faithful can expect a high of 65F with a low of 55F and a 10% chance of rain. Heck, these guys showed they can beat the Buccaneers fielding their 3rd-string QB - the home team can beat anybody on any given Sunday! The weather will be outstanding for playing and watching pro football.

NYG Injuries: WR David Tyree (Questionable)
SF Injuries: LB Saleem Rasheed (Out), DB Ahmed Plummer (Doubtful)


Oakland Raiders Passing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Passing Defense (Great Matchup)

Kerry Collins rang up 21/35 for 263 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. the Chiefs during their week 2 game. Since then, he's gone on to be the 7th ranked fantasy QB in the land with 136/244 for 1882 yards, 10 TDs and only 3 interceptions so far this year. However, his top threat Randy Moss is limited right now with rib, groin, and (last week) head injuries. While Moss has been limited, Jerry Porter has benefited - he snagged 6/123/2 last week on 8 targets. Collins tossed 17/29 for 238 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception last week - he comes into this contest hot.

The Chiefs' pass D has been anything but hot recently, averaging 276.6 passing yards allowed per game over the past 3 weeks (830 yards during 3 games), and have given up 1108 total yards during that span. They are the league's 31st ranked pass D this year, averaging 274.7 pass yards surrendered, and they are tied for 2nd-worst with 14 passing scores allowed to date. Yep, they are bad - Drew Brees torched them for 26/44 for 341 yards, 4 TDs and 1 interception last week. Ouch!

Collins is hot, the Chiefs stink in this phase of the game - advantage, Oakland.

Weather: Fans at Arrowhead Stadium can expect a high of 61F with a low of 40F and a 20% chance of rain. At this time of year, the wind can really start whipping across the plains, which makes Arrowhead a trickier-than-usual place to pass and kick the football - Tynes and Janikowski owners especially will want to check on wind conditions closer to game time to see what's going on in K.C.

OAK Injuries: RB Zack Crockett (Probable), RB Justin Fargas (Probable), WR Randy Moss (Questionable), TE John Paul Foschi (Questionable)
KC Injuries: DL John Browning (Probable), DL Ryan Sims (Out), DB Dexter McCleon (Questionable), DB Patrick Surtain (Questionable), DB Eric Warfield (Questionable), DB Jerome Woods (Questionable)


Cleveland Browns Passing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Dilfer's favorite target recently has been Antonio Bryant (11 targets in the past 2 weeks) followed by Braylon Edwards (8 targets) - Bryant turned 7 targets into 4/98/0 last week, while Edwards cashed in 2/32/0 on 4 chances. With only 12/25 for 185 yards, 1 TD (to TE Aaron Shea, 1/8/1) and 0 interceptions to Dilfer's credit last week, there weren't many fantasy points to go around. That's been true during the last 3 weeks - Dilfer has 38/74 for 405 yards, 1 TD and 4 interceptions over 3 games to "boast" about. The Browns' passing attack is in the tank. Dilfer suffered memory loss on a hard hit last week, so keep an eye on his practice/injury status as the week progresses. He should be fine, but head traumas can cause side-effects several days after the initial injury. The cries for #2 QB Charlie Frye are starting to grow. It's entirely possible Crennel could make an in game change if Dilfer struggles.

Tennessee has allowed the most passing scores in the NFL to date, with 17 surrendered. They placed DB Vincent Fuller on IR last week, and have watched starting CB Andre Woolfolk struggle to stay on the field due to injuries, while rookie CB Adam Jones has just plain struggled. Over the past 3 weeks, the team has surrendered an average of 206 passing yards per game, including last week's 17/29 for 238 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception given up to Kerry Collins. It's pretty easy to score TDs on these guys. They have only 2 interceptions in the last 3 games - about the only thing the Titans do well is bring pass rush pressure, with 24 sacks to their credit this year (tied for 2nd in the NFL).

Dilfer has been playing poorly, but as long as his offensive line can hold up (the Browns are in the middle of the league with 17 sacks allowed to date) he has a good shot at a decent game this week.

Weather: It looks like Browns Stadium will be soggy on Sunday, with a 60% chance for rain in the region. That means a slippery ball and less-certain footing for both teams, most especially if the sky is pouring rain at game-time. With a high around 61F and a low of 42F forecast, it'll be pretty chilly standing around in the damp, too.

CLE Injuries: RB William Green (Doubtful), RB Lee Suggs (Out)
TEN Injuries: DL Antwan Odom (Questionable), LB Rocky Boiman (Questionable), LB Peter Sirmon (Questionable), DB Andre Woolfolk (Questionable)


Indianapolis Colts Passing Offense at New England Patriots Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Peyton Manning and company were challenged by the Texans somewhat before the bye (they went into half-time tied 14 all) - when it was all said and done, he had tossed 21/27 for 237 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception and the Colts won easily, 38-20. Dallas Clark (3/51/1) and Marvin Harrison (7/65/1) accounted for the scores week 7, while Reggie Wayne led the team with 9/89/0 receiving. Brandon Stokley made a cameo appearance with 1/24/0 - he's the odd man out in this less-explosive 2005 campaign, with 21/237/0 through 7 games. Wayne has snagged 37/437/2 to date; Harrison has 37/388/5 so far. As Manning has compiled a relatively-modest 139/204 for 1551 yards, 11 TDs and 5 interceptions to date (16th fantasy QB in the land this year in points per game), the drop off amongst the receivers is no huge surprise (now that we're used to the fact that 2004 was a truly special season, and not a new standard for Manning to live up to year after year). They are still one of the most lethal passing attacks in the league when they need to be.

The Patriots have had massive injury problems among their DBs again this year, and it shows in their season ranking of 24th vs. the pass, allowing an average of 230.7 passing yards per game, with 13 passing scores surrendered to date. Over the past 3 weeks, they've coughed up an average of 250.5 passing yards per game (2 games played). Kelly Holcomb hit a season high in pass yards against this group with 20/33 for 263 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception. The Patriots are 24th in the league this year with only 13 sacks (the Colts lead the league with only 5 sacks allowed).

If the Colts need to throw the ball, they should be able to do so with success against the Patriots defense (but remember to check the weather forecast for Gillette Stadium late in the week if you own Colts). It's also worth noting that no coach in the league seems to be able to handle Peyton Manning as well as Bill Belichick.

Weather: The forecast for Gillette Stadium on Monday calls for a high of 56F with a low of 37F and a 50% chance for rain. Since the game starts at 9 PM ET, it'll be closer to the low, which means precipitation could fall as rain, sleet or snow. Conditions could lead to footing and ball handling issues for both teams - NFL passing games are usually limited by snowstorms, for example. If you have Colts or Patriots on your roster, it will be worth your while to check a shorter-range forecast at the end of the week before plugging in your lineup.

IND Injuries: TE Ben Utecht (Probable)
NE Injuries: DL Jarvis Green (Questionable), DL Marquise Hill (Questionable), DL Richard Seymour (Questionable), DL Ty Warren (Questionable), LB Willie McGinest (Questionable), DB Randall Gay (Questionable), DB James Sanders (Questionable)


Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Offense vs Houston Texans Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Byron Leftwich continues to develop his new weapons in the passing game, hitting WR Ernest Wilford for 6/145/1 on 7 targets last week, and also tossing a score to Matt Jones (4/38/1 on 9 targets). The development of the new guys is costing Jimmy Smith owners, though - he's seen 13 targets in the last 2 games (3 weeks), but only hauled in 5/59/0 (70th among fantasy WRs in points per game during that span). Wilford has caught 8/160/1 (15th fantasy WR in points per game during that 3 week span) and Jones has 6/58/2 (26th).

Houston's pass defense is mediocre-to-bad from week to week, ranking 17th in the NFL averaging 207.1 passing yards allowed per game (with 10 passing scores surrendered to date). Lately (the past 3 weeks) they've done better, averaging 180 passing yards given up per contest (but their rush D has been awful during the same span). Trent Dilfer hit them for 12/25 for 185 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions last week.

Leftwich continues to grow as a pro QB, and he has more weapons to choose from this year - meanwhile, the Texans muddle along in the middle of the NFL pack. At Alltel Stadium, we expect the Jaguars to give the Texans' defense a hard time this week.

Weather: The forecast for Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium calls for a high of 83F with a low of 66F and a 20% chance for rain. As long as the skies don't open up, it should be a great day to play some tackle football.

JAX Injuries: WR Reggie Williams (Probable), WR Cortez Hankton (Questionable)
HOU Injuries: DL Gary Walker (Probable)


Kansas City Chiefs Passing Offense vs Oakland Raiders Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Trent Green finally found Tony Gonzalez for some points last week (7/97/1 on 10 targets), and also hit Eddie Kennison for 7 receptions (7/115/1 on 9 targets) en route to a season-high fantasy performance of 31/43 for 347 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions (to rank 4th in fantasy points). Green was playing under extreme emotional duress as his father unexpectedly passed away mid-week last week - it was an inspiring performance. We'll see if the unit (which has only scored 6 TDs through the air this year during 7 games) can build on last week's momentum. Last time around (during week 2), he threw 18/28 for 237 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions vs. the Raiders. Since then, though, the Raiders have lost starting S Derrick Gibson and starting CB Charles Woodson.

Over the past 3 weeks, the Raiders have 0 interceptions to their credit, while allowing an average of 156 passing yards per game. Last week, Steve McNair connected for 26/40 for 229 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions vs. this squad. This season, Oakland ranks 22nd in the NFL giving up 222.1 passing yards per contest, with 10 scores surrendered to date. They aren't a top pass defense.

Green and company are on a mini-roll, and they have home-field advantage at their back. The Raiders are injury depleted and not very good - K.C. has the edge in this matchup.

Weather: Fans at Arrowhead Stadium can expect a high of 61F with a low of 40F and a 20% chance of rain. At this time of year, the wind can really start whipping across the plains, which makes Arrowhead a trickier-than-usual place to pass and kick the football - Tynes and Janikowski owners especially will want to check on wind conditions closer to game time to see what's going on in K.C.

KC Injuries: QB Trent Green (Probable), RB Priest Holmes (Questionable), WR Samie Parker (Questionable)
OAK Injuries: DL Bobby Hamilton (Questionable), LB DeLawrence Grant (Doubtful), DB Nnamdi Asomugha (Probable), DB Jarrod Cooper (Probable), DB Charles Woodson (Out)


New York Jets Passing Offense vs San Diego Chargers Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Vinny Testaverde was dominated by the Falcons two weeks ago, and ended the night on the bench (11/18 for 140 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception). Other than Laveranues Coles (9/96/0), nobody else on the team broke the 50 yards receiving barrier. It was a forgettable night for the Jets' offense. During the past 3 weeks, Testaverde ranks as the 26th fantasy QB in points per game, with 23/44 for 301 yards, 0 TDs and 3 interceptions. The Jets have tossed only 3 TDs all season - that's the least passing scores thrown by any team so far this year. Yikes!

This week, though, San Diego comes to town - they are the 29th ranked pass D this year, giving up an average of 257.1 passing yards per contest, with 10 passing scores surrendered to date. Over the past 3 weeks, they've averaged 285.3 passing yards allowed per game, including last week's total of 31/43 for 341 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions given up to Trent Green and company. The only thing these guys don't do is roll out the red carpet for the competition.

Testaverde has struggled mightily, but at home vs. the limp Chargers he has a good matchup to work with - advantage Jets.

Weather: The forecast for Giants Stadium calls for a high of 65F and a low of 53F with a 20% chance for rain - sounds like great football weather to us.

NYJ Injuries: QB Vinny Testaverde (Probable), QB Jay Fiedler (Out), RB Curtis Martin (Probable), RB Derrick Blaylock (Out), WR Justin McCareins (Probable)
SD Injuries: LB Steve Foley (Questionable), LB Randall Godfrey (Questionable), DB Drayton Florence (Questionable), DB Terrance Kiel (Questionable)


Seattle Seahawks Passing Offense at Arizona Cardinals Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Matt Hasselbeck and the receivers watched Shaun Alexander slice, dice and julienne the Cardinals back in week 3 (22/140/4) - and Hasselbeck still threw for 20/31 for 242 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions during the 37 - 12 rout. Coming off the bye week, he expects to have Bobby Engram back in the starting lineup, which will form a nice tandem with Joe Jurevicius (he of the 9/83/1 during the 2 games leading up to the bye week). Jackson is said to be about 2 weeks away from returning after the bye week of rest. Since the start of the season, Hasselbeck has thrown for 151/237 for 1719 yards, 9 TDs and 6 interceptions to rank 12th among all fantasy signal callers. The Seattle offense is pretty impressive, all-around.

The Cardinals field a mediocre secondary that ranks 16th in the NFL allowing an average of 206.7 passing yards per game, with 7 scores surrendered to date. They have averaged 230 passing yards allowed over the past 3 weeks (2 games) with 19/24 for 220 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions given away to the Cowboys last week. They are a what-you-see-is-what-you-get bunch - not great, but not horrible, either.

Seattle has an elite QB and some very good receiving weapons to throw down, while the mediocre Cardinals have home field advantage (such as it is), but little to play for - we give the edge to the Seahawks.

Weather: At this time of year, people who live in cold climates see the allure of Arizona - a high of 82F with a low of 60F and a 0% chance of rain is forecast for Sun Devil Stadium this weekend.

SEA Injuries: WR Bobby Engram (Probable), WR Darrell Jackson (Out)
ARI Injuries: DL Chike Okeafor (Probable), LB Karlos Dansby (Probable), LB Lance Mitchell (Questionable), DB Eric Green (Probable), DB Antrel Rolle (Out)


Washington Redskins Passing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Passing Defense (Good Matchup)

Mark Brunell's run of big games ended last week as the Giants utterly crushed the Redskins and their QB, allowing 11/28 for 65 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception to Brunell before he got the hook and Patrick Ramsey completed the mess (3/6 for 62 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions). Santana Moss led the team with 4/34/0 - nothing went right last week for the Redskins' offense. Brunell ranks as the 8th best fantasy QB this year even after the horrible outing (127/226 for 1557 yards, 12 TDs and 3 interceptions) - this was just one of those games. The inspired Giants were on a mission to honor their fallen chief, Wellington Mara, and nobody withstood them last week.

The Eagles were absolutely pummeled by the Broncos last week, allowing 36/255/3 rushing and also 22/35 for 309 yards, 4 TDs and 0 interceptions to Jake Plummer and company in the passing phase of the game. They now rank 25th in the NFL allowing an average of 232 passing yards per game, with 13 passing scores surrendered. They have given up an average of 289.5 passing yard per game over the past 3 weeks, (2 games), with only 2 interceptions and 4 sacks during that span (9 total TDs surrendered).

Washington was hot until they smashed into the Giants' juggernaut last week - their rough game looked more like an aberration than a trend. On the other hand, the Eagle's offense forced their defense onto the field an awful lot last week (Denver had 37 minutes of possession, vs. 23 minutes for the Eagles), and it was the second week in a row that the opposing passer threw for a lot of yards and scores vs. the Eagles. Advantage, Washington.

Weather: Fed Ex Field expects a high of 68F with a low of 50F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday - a nice, crisp evening is in store for this game. Weather shouldn't be too much of an issue for either team.

WAS Injuries: RB Ladell Betts (Probable), WR Santana Moss (Probable), TE Chris Cooley (Probable), TE Robert Royal (Questionable)
PHI Injuries: DL Darwin Walker (Probable), DL Ndukwe Kalu (Questionable), DL Jevon Kearse (Questionable), DL Sam Rayburn (Questionable), LB Jason Short (Probable), LB Jeremiah Trotter (Probable), DB Michael Lewis (Probable), DB Lito Sheppard (Probable)


Chicago Bears Passing Offense at New Orleans Saints Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Unfortunately for the Bears, one of their rising young stars, receiver Mark Bradley, suffered a torn ACL on Sunday and is now lost for the season. Head coach Lovie Smith stated "It's tough for him and tough for our football team. You have a player who's really coming into his own. He has a lot of talent and a great future. It's a setback for him, but he'll come back from it. Still, it's hard when you see a young player go down like that. But that's the hand that's been dealt. So we'll go from there."

Former starter Justin Gage, who was beat out for the #2 job by Bradley early in the season, is expected to again start across from Muhsin Muhammad. Bernard Berrian is not an option right now as he is sidelined, rehabbing from a thumb surgery (out 5-7 weeks). Other possible candidates include Airese Currie or Carl Ford. Kyle Orton continues to make his mark as a developing NFL starter, with 48/85 for 492 yards, 4 TDs and only 1 interception during his past 3 games - very solid for a rookie. Last week, against divisional rival Detroit, he managed to throw for 17/31 for 230 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions (his first time over 200 yards passing this season). Muhsin Muhammad got into the game with 4/49/1 receiving, and he figures to see even more balls with Bradley gone now.

The Saints are 8th in the NFL vs. the pass in terms of yards allowed per game (172.4), but have coughed up 10 passing scores so far with only 5 interceptions generated. They are tied for 19th in the league with 15 sacks so far. Over the past 3 weeks they have allowed an average of 149.6 passing yards per contest (last week the Rams' Jamie Martin threw for 198 two weeks ago, but didn't score a TD or throw an interception). Gus Frerotte tossed 16/28 for 168 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception last week (both games were Saint losses - they've dropped 4 in a row). This is not a dominant pass D, but they don't surrender a lot of big games yardage-wise (partly because their rush D is very poor, so teams elect to run the ball a lot against New Orleans).

Chicago's passing game is subordinate to the rushing game and defense, but Orton has been improving as the weeks go by. The Saints are playing out the string, but they should be a challenge for the youngster - sounds even to us.

Weather: Tiger Stadium expects a high of 83F and a low of 50F with a 30% chance for rain. If the rain comes down hard around game time, field conditions could be a problem for both teams - this field does double duty as the home of the Tigers and the wandering Saints right now, so it sees a lot more wear and tear than, say, Bank of America Stadium up in Charlotte.

CHI Injuries: QB Rex Grossman (Out), RB Thomas Jones (Probable), WR Bernard Berrian (Out), WR Mark Bradley (Out)
NO Injuries: LB T.J. Slaughter (Questionable), DB Mike McKenzie (Questionable)


Green Bay Packers Passing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Brett Favre fell into a funk last week, giving into his gun-slinging mentality and tossing 5 interceptions as a result (26/39 for 279 yards, 1 TD and 5 interceptions on the day). At this point in the season, considering the injury problems on the Packer's roster, there will be weeks when things just don't go right. Favre is still the 4th-ranked fantasy QB this season with 174/261 for 1850 yards, 15 TDs and 13 interceptions - some weeks are going to be better than others. One thing is for sure, with an underpowered rushing attack and a porous secondary on the field, the Packers will need to throw the ball a lot. Last week, Donald Driver saw 9 targets (5/76/0 receiving), Antonio Chatman had 11 balls come his way (8/97/0) while Bubba Franks handled 10 passes (7/62/1). Expect these three to lead the way going forward (until Robert Ferguson can play again, anyway).

The Steelers rank 20th in the NFL this season, giving up an average of 211.9 passing yards per game, but have only allowed 5 passing scores to date (tied for 2nd-least in the NFL to date). 25/44 for 252 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions was the amount allowed to Anthony Wright on Monday night. The Steelers make things tough on most opposing QBs, with 22 sacks to their credit this year (t-7th in the NFL), but Green Bay has only given up 9 sacks this year (2nd-least in the NFL).

The Packers field a great QB, but he's lacking some of his weapons right now and the weather forecast isn't favorable to passing for a lot of yards. The Steelers limit scoring in this phase of the game - we call this a neutral matchup.

Weather: Welcome to Wisconsin in November - Lambeau expects a high of 48F with a low of 31F and a 50% chance for rain, sleet or snow on Sunday. If the precipitation comes down hard around game time, ball handling and footing may be adversely affected - both teams are from cold-weather towns, so they are used to these challenges, but conditions probably won't be optimum for a high-scoring, shoot-out type contest...time will tell. If you have Packers or Steelers on your squad, it will be worth your while to check a shorter-term forecast on Friday or Saturday before selecting your starters.

GB Injuries: WR Robert Ferguson (Doubtful), TE Bubba Franks (Probable), TE David Martin (Questionable)
PIT Injuries: DL Travis Kirschke (Probable), LB James Farrior (Probable), LB Larry Foote (Probable), LB Clark Haggans (Probable), LB James Harrison (Probable), LB Joey Porter (Probable), DB Ricardo Colclough (Probable), DB Mike Logan (Out)


Miami Dolphins Passing Offense vs Atlanta Falcons Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Gus Frerotte hasn't been stellar in recent weeks (48/100 for 560 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions during the past 3 weeks), but he was credible last week against the Saints with 16/28 for 168 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception - the score went to Chris Chambers (4/25/1). Between Chambers (27/377/3) and TE Randy McMichael (25/249/4), the duo has accounted for 7 of the team's 9 TD receptions - they are the guys to own if you have a Dolphin receiver. Realize, though, that as the streaky Frerotte goes, so do Chambers and McMichael.

Atlanta ranks 21st in the NFL this year allowing an average of 218.9 passing yards per game, with 9 scores surrendered to date. However, they went into their bye week on an strong note, with 23/38 for 234 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception allowed to the Jets (they so thoroughly stymied Vinny Testaverde that he ended up on the bench while journeyman Brooks Bollinger piled up garbage-time yards). Atlanta hasn't been feared to start the season, but they definitely moved their game up a notch before the bye week.

Frerotte has been underwhelming us lately, while the Falcons have addressed some problems with their defense and look like they are improving heading into the second half of the season. At Miami, we think this looks like a pretty even matchup between two units in flux.

Weather: Opa Locka, Florida expects a high of 86F with a low of 74F and a 30% chance of rain on Sunday. Depending on when and how hard the rain comes down, the field conditions could adversely affect both teams.

MIA Injuries: WR David Boston (Questionable)
ATL Injuries: DL Brady Smith (Questionable)


Pittsburgh Steelers Passing Offense at Green Bay Packers Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Ben Roethlisberger is out for the cross-conference game vs. Green Bay. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and will miss this week's contest and possibly the week 10 game.

Charlie Batch will get the nod (747/1334 for 9063 yards, 49 TDs and 40 interceptions passing during his career to date, most of it amassed during 1998-2001 in Detroit as the starter).

The Packers are tied for 2nd-most passing TDs allowed to date, with 14 given away, while ranking 18th in the league averaging 207.4 yards given up per contest. They have 17 sacks so far (t-15th in the NFL), and have only 5 interceptions as a squad. They aren't impressive, as Carson Palmer showed last week (22/34 for 237 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception).

The Steelers' lineup may be in flux this week, and the weather isn't supposed to be very nice - meanwhile, the Packers are soft vs. the pass more often than not. We'll call it a neutral matchup because of all of the unknowns at mid-week. We think the Steelers will lean more on the running game with Batch under center.

Weather: Welcome to Wisconsin in November - Lambeau expects a high of 48F with a low of 31F and a 50% chance for rain, sleet or snow on Sunday. If the precipitation comes down hard around game time, ball handling and footing may be adversely affected - both teams are from cold-weather towns, so they are used to these challenges, but conditions probably won't be optimum for a high-scoring, shoot-out type contest...time will tell. If you have Packers or Steelers on your squad, it will be worth your while to check a shorter-term forecast on Friday or Saturday before selecting your starters.

PIT Injuries: QB Ben Roethlisberger (Questionable), RB Willie Parker (Probable), RB Jerome Bettis (Questionable), WR Antwaan Randle El (Probable), WR Hines Ward (Probable)
GB Injuries: LB Nail Diggs (Questionable), LB Robert Thomas (Questionable), DB Al Harris (Probable)


Tennessee Titans Passing Offense at Cleveland Browns Passing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

McNair struggled with some back spasms last week, but didn't miss any time during the game due to his problem. However, this week he's dealing with a lack of personnel. Drew Bennett is sidelined due to thumb surgery, Brandon Jones missed last week due to a knee injury, Tyrone Calico was knocked out before half-time with a calf injury, and top red-zone threat TE Ben Troupe suffered a high ankle sprain. The Titans are down to rookies Roydell Williams and Courtney Roby as their healthy starting WRs, with Erron Kinney and Bo Scaife as their top 2 TEs. There just isn't much for McNair (26/40 for 229 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions last week) to work with right now.

The Browns rank 19th in the NFL allowing an average of 208.1 passing yards per game, with 8 TDs surrendered to date. Over the past 3 weeks, they've averaged 177 passing yards allowed, including last week's total of 10/20 for 138 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception given up to the Texans. They are tied for 30th in the NFL with 10 sacks this season (they only notched 2 against the Texans' horrible OL last week) - the Browns don't scare their opposition in this phase of the game.

McNair doesn't have much to work with - but the Browns aren't particularly strong vs. the pass, either. That sounds about even to us.

Weather: It looks like Browns Stadium will be soggy on Sunday, with a 60% chance for rain in the region. That means a slippery ball and less-certain footing for both teams, most especially if the sky is pouring rain at game-time. With a high around 61F and a low of 42F forecast, it'll be pretty chilly standing around in the damp, too.

TEN Injuries: QB Steve McNair (Questionable), RB Troy Fleming (Questionable), RB Damien Nash (Questionable), WR Tyrone Calico (Questionable), WR Brandon Jones (Questionable), WR Drew Bennett (Out), TE Ben Troupe (Questionable)
CLE Injuries: DL Alvin McKinley (Questionable), DB Chris Crocker (Questionable), DB Ray Mickens (Questionable)


Arizona Cardinals Passing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Josh McCown has struggled over the past few weeks, with 28/61 for 301 yards, 2 TDs and 3 interceptions in 2 games - he was on the bench the last time Arizona faced the Seahawks to start the game, but came in to relieve Kurt Warner after Warner's injury (8/13 for 105 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions for Warner that day, 10/23 for 97 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception for McCown). Neither one was particularly effective vs. Seattle in week 3. This week, the Cardinals will be without starting WR Anquan Boldin (bone bruise in his knee, out for 2-4 weeks is the word on Wednesday), so Bryant Johnson will lineup opposite Larry Fitzgerald this week. The team announced on Wednesday that Kurt Warner will step back into the top job this week vs. Seattle - he's tossed 64/101 for 696 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions over 3 games this year.

Seattle sports a 10th-ranked secondary allowing an average of 188.3 passing yards per game, with 9 TDs allowed (but only 5 interceptions generated to date). They are 6th in the NFL with 23 sacks, though - they bring a lot of pressure to bear on opposing QBs. As the Cardinals have allowed the 6th most sacks this season, with 22 surrendered, the Seahawk's pass rush should give newly-returned Kurt Warner a lot to worry about. Drew Bledsoe eked out 13/24 for 136 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions against them before the bye week, and he was sacked 5 times.

With the Cardinal's offense in flux (Warner will probably need some time to shake off the rust) and a top-ten pass D visiting, we think this is a tough matchup for Arizona - Warner is likely to have Seahawks in his face all day long.

Weather: At this time of year, people who live in cold climates see the allure of Arizona - a high of 82F with a low of 60F and a 0% chance of rain is forecast for Sun Devil Stadium this weekend.

ARI Injuries: QB Josh McCown (Probable), RB Harold Morrow (Probable), WR Reggie Swinton (Doubtful), WR Anquan Boldin (Out), TE Teyo Johnson (Questionable)
SEA Injuries: LB D.D. Lewis (Questionable)


Atlanta Falcons Passing Offense at Miami Dolphins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Atlanta runs the ball very well, they run it often, and they don't need a lot of passes to succeed with their offense. Vick's passing statistics reflect these realities: so far, he has 66/126 for 723 passing yards, 5 TDs and 6 interceptions to his credit in 6 games (he missed one due to injury). Warrick Dunn has 732 yards rushing after 7 games. So far this year, TE Alge Crumpler is the only Falcon receiver worth starting on a weekly basis (27/375/2, 6th among fantasy TEs to date). He has single-handedly accounted for over 50% of Vick's total passing yardage. Vick is the 17th ranked fantasy QB in the land as we head into the 2nd half of the season, with 49/302/3 rushing to bolster his fantasy points (but he's still not scoring enough to warrant a start every week in the average 12 team league).

Miami's pass defense is good, ranking 11th in the NFL allowing 191.7 yards per game on average (8 scores allowed to date). They crushed the hapless Saints last week, allowing a mere 14/31 for 181 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception to Aaron Brooks and company. This group is rock solid, despite their low interception total this season (only 4 so far). During the last 3 weeks, they are tied for tops in the NFL with 11 QB sacks - the Dolphins are getting in the opposing signal callers' faces a lot lately. Sam Madison missed last week's game due to a hip injury, leaving a big void at CB. He was questionable last week - the team hopes he can go this week.

With home field at their back and the one-dimensional Falcons visiting, we think Miami has the edge in this phase of the game.

Weather: Opa Locka, Florida expects a high of 86F with a low of 74F and a 30% chance of rain on Sunday. Depending on when and how hard the rain comes down, the field conditions could adversely affect both teams.

ATL Injuries: RB T.J. Duckett (Questionable), WR Michael Jenkins (Questionable)
MIA Injuries: LB Junior Seau (Questionable), LB Eddie Moore (Out), DB Sam Madison (Questionable)


Baltimore Ravens Passing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Anthony Wright continues to deliver mediocre passing statistics (25/44 for 252 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions last week) - his 252 passing yards on Monday night are a season high, and the 25 completions matched his best effort to date. He is not an explosive quarterback. Derrick Mason (7/91/0), Todd Heap (5/38/0) and Chester Taylor (5/55/1) were the top receivers for the Ravens last week, and those 3 figure to be the main guys going forward. Don't look for a ton of fantasy points out of this group and you won't be disappointed, but on any given Sunday one of them is likely to haul in a TD and a decent number of receiving yards.

The Bengals lead the league in interceptions by far, with 20 (the Colts are next with 12), and they picked Brett Favre 5 times last week - CB Deltha O'Neal (2), LB Odell Thurman (2), and CB Tory James (1) accounted for the interceptions last week. They don't do a whole lot of sacking (only 2 over the past 3 games, and only 11 this season, tied for 28th in the NFL), but otherwise these guys are very good. They've allowed an average of 206.3 passing yards per game over the past 3 weeks, (279 and a TD to Favre last week), and currently rank 13th in the NFL this season with an average of 195.3 passing yards allowed per game.

Wright will need to be careful with the ball if he's to avoid a lot of interceptions, which will likely limit the number of "big plays" the Ravens attempt this week - look for a lot of high percentage, dink-and-dunk stuff. Advantage, Cincinnati.

The Bengals will be without the services of starting S Madieu Williams for the rest of the season after surgery to correct a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He had been sidelined since late September due to the injury. With Kim Herring already on IR, the team's top two safeties are now out of commission.

Weather: M&T Bank Stadium should see a high around 68F with a low of 55F and a 20% chance for rain on Sunday. A nice, cool autumnal day - perfect football weather, in our book.

BAL Injuries: QB Kyle Boller (Doubtful), RB Ovie Mughelli (Questionable), WR Mark Clayton (Questionable)
CIN Injuries: DL Justin Smith (Probable), LB David Pollack (Questionable)


Cincinnati Bengals Passing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Carson Palmer got back into the top ten among fantasy QBs last week with 22/34 for 237 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception in his showdown with Brett Favre (Palmer was the 6th best fantasy QB in the land last week). He leads the NFL with 16 TD passes to date. Last week, Palmer spread the ball around, favoring T.J. Houshmandzadeh (5/77/1), Chris Perry (6/25/1) and Jeremi Johnson (1/27/1) with the TDs, while Chad Johnson hauled in 5/62/0 on the day. With so many weapons at his disposal, Palmer is mutilating most of the secondaries that he faces.

The Raven's pass D ranks 2nd in the NFL allowing an average of 153.9 passing yards per contest this year (7 scores given up, though - towards the middle of the NFL pack). However, in the absence of starting S Ed Reed, they have been a little softer vs. the pass of late. Ben Roethlisberger hit them for 18/30 for 177 yards, 2 TDs and 1 interception last week. The unit hasn't imploded, but they aren't quite a fearsome as usual with Reed and MLB Ray Lewis sidelined due to injury. Keep an eye on the status of those 2 defenders on the injury report later this week if you are invested in the Bengal's passing attack.

Palmer and company are approaching elite status among NFL passing offenses, but the Ravens are no pushover and they hold home-field advantage. We like the Bengals but this will be a tough matchup (they are also divisional rivals, so both teams will be "up" for this contest).

Weather: M&T Bank Stadium should see a high around 68F with a low of 55F and a 20% chance for rain on Sunday. A nice, cool autumnal day - perfect football weather, in our book.

CIN Injuries: RB Rudi Johnson (Probable), RB Chris Perry (Probable), WR Chad Johnson (Probable)
BAL Injuries: DL Anthony Weaver (Doubtful), LB Ray Lewis (Out), DB Ed Reed (Doubtful)


Minnesota Vikings Passing Offense vs Detroit Lions Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Vikings have a big void to fill this week as long-time starter Daunte Culpepper is lost for at least this season with damage to three ligaments in his right knee. Luckily for the Vikings, they have a proven backup in Brad Johnson (a Super-Bowl champion QB in 2002 with Tampa Bay). He has compiled 2178/3532 for 24075 yards, 144 TDs and 98 interceptions in his career (he actually started out in Minnesota back in 1994). Last week, with few practice repetitions, Johnson managed 13/28 for 162 yards passing, 1 TD and 0 interceptions - not great, but not too bad off the bench. We'll learn more about which receivers work well with Johnson after this week. Last week, Marcus Robinson led the team with 4/77/1 receiving (5 targets).

The Lions have been playing tough D the past 3 weeks, and are 2nd in the league with 6 interceptions (8 sacks) vs. only 4 total TDs allowed during that span. Kyle Orton managed 17/31 for 230 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions against them last week. The Lions are 14th in the NFL this year allowing 195.4 passing yards per game per game - over the past 3 weeks they average 179 passing yards allowed per game. Overall, this is a tough pass D.

The Lions are fighting for a chance to win the NFC North, while the Vikings are trying to salvage their season. This looks like a tough fight for the Vikings as they adjust to a new signal caller.

Weather: Inside the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, we expect conditions to be perfect. Weather won't be a factor in this matchup.

MIN Injuries: RB Moe Williams (Doubtful), WR Marcus Robinson (Questionable)
DET Injuries: DL Marcus Bell (Questionable), DL Jared DeVries (Questionable), DL Shaun Rogers (Questionable), LB Teddy Lehman (Out), DB Terrence Holt (Questionable), DB Dre Bly (Out)


New England Patriots Passing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Tom Brady was limited to 14/21 for 199 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions by Buffalo's excellent secondary last week - Deion Branch (3/92/1) and David Givens (7/58/0) accounted for all but 4 of his completions during the game. Over the past 3 weeks (2 games), Brady has tossed 38/67 for 498 yards, 2 TDs and 0 interceptions (12th ranked fantasy QB in fantasy points per game) - he has been steadily productive, but not explosive. Branch (10/179/1) and Givens (14/116/1) have been the focal points of the New England passing game during that same 3 week span.

Indianapolis is playing very aggressive pass D this year, ranking 7th in the NFL allowing an average of 169.3 passing yards per game, with only 5 passing scores given up (tied for 2nd-least in the NFL to date) and 12 interceptions generated (2nd only to Cincinnati this year). They also lead the league with 26 sacks (the Patriots are tied for 3rd-least sacks allowed, though, with only 10 given up). They are nasty in this phase of the game, no matter how you slice it. Hapless David Carr could only muster 6/9 for 48 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception against this secondary during week 7 - and he played the entire game (and was sacked 5 times).

Brady is an elite NFL QB, and he's had the Colt's number in years past. However, the Colts have taken their game to a whole new level this season - two top units face off in this matchup. We're calling it a tough matchup but Brady knows how to excel in those.

Weather: The forecast for Gillette Stadium on Monday calls for a high of 56F with a low of 37F and a 50% chance for rain. Since the game starts at 9 PM ET, it'll be closer to the low, which means precipitation could fall as rain, sleet or snow. Conditions could lead to footing and ball handling issues for both teams - NFL passing games are usually limited by snowstorms, for example. If you have Colts or Patriots on your roster, it will be worth your while to check a shorter-range forecast at the end of the week before plugging in your lineup.

NE Injuries: QB Tom Brady (Probable), RB Corey Dillon (Questionable), RB Patrick Pass (Questionable), RB Kevin Faulk (Out), WR Troy Brown (Questionable), WR Tim Dwight (Questionable), WR David Givens (Questionable), TE Ben Watson (Questionable)
IND Injuries: DL Dwight Freeney (Probable), DL Robert Mathis (Probable), DL Vincent Burns (Probable), DL Larry Tripplett (Questionable), LB Cato June (Probable), LB Keith O'Neil (Doubtful), DB Joseph Jefferson (Probable), DB Bob Sanders (Probable)


New Orleans Saints Passing Offense vs Chicago Bears Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Aaron Brooks passing last week: 14/31 for 181 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. Aaron Brooks passing over the past 3 weeks: 54/103 for 670 yards, 4 TDs and 3 interceptions - he's been up and down. Last week, when Joe Horn returned, Brooks hit him 7 times for 99 yards (Donte' Stallworth hauled in 3/52/0), so that connection is still working, at least. The erratic play of the Saints is driving a lot of fantasy owners to distraction, to say the least.

This week, the Bears bring the 9th-ranked pass defense in the land to town, averaging 178.3 passing yards allowed per game, with 6 TDs allowed to date vs. 11 interceptions generated (3rd most in the NFL). They are 11th in the NFL with 20 sacks to date (New Orleans has allowed 25 sacks to date, 3rd most in the NFL). Last week, the Bears limited Jeff Garcia and company to 23/35 for 197 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception. They are a solid defense any way you look at them.

The Saints haven't been consistently performing, while the Bears are consistently stalwart - this looks like a tough matchup for Brooks and company.

Weather: Tiger Stadium expects a high of 83F and a low of 50F with a 30% chance for rain. If the rain comes down hard around game time, field conditions could be a problem for both teams - this field does double duty as the home of the Tigers and the wandering Saints right now, so it sees a lot more wear and tear than, say, Bank of America Stadium up in Charlotte.

NO Injuries: WR Az-zahir Hakim (Questionable), TE Ernie Conwell (Questionable), TE Shad Meier (Questionable)
CHI Injuries: DB Charles Tillman (Probable)


Philadelphia Eagles Passing Offense at Washington Redskins Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Philadelphia has serious problems in this phase of the game. Donovan McNabb is limited in effectiveness, opening last week's game with 11 incompletions and 1 interception (he seems to take forever to get into rhythm while his sore groin hampers him during the first half of games). He missed practice on Wednesday due to bruised ribs suffered vs. Denver (and all his other injuries). Terrell Owens has an ankle injury to go with his chronically sore groin and is doubtful to play on Sunday. Said Coach Reid on Wednesday "He is hurting. He is sore. It's going to be a fight to get him there for Sunday. We're taking it day by day. He's made progress the last couple of days." The good news is that Owens was able to practice at full speed on Thursday so maybe things are looking up. With their star QB and WR limited, the Eagles may not have many bullets left in their gun, folks. Keep a close eye on each player's status later in the week, but we're not high on this attack's chances on Sunday as of mid-week.

Washington, meanwhile, comes into the game humiliated by a 36-0 shellacking by the Giants last Sunday. They allowed only 12/31 for 146 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception to Eli Manning last week, but were torn apart by Tiki Barber on the ground. The Redskins average 152.7 passing yards allowed per game this year (1st in the NFL) with only 5 thrown scores surrendered (tied for 2nd-least in the NFL), and they stayed on that excellent pace last week. The secondary was not to blame for the loss to New York.

With all the problems on the Eagle's side of the ball, and home-field advantage behind their divisional rivals' defense, we think Philly is in for a tough game. McNabb has been able to rally for strong showings in the second half during recent weeks, but he had T.O. to throw the ball to in those games -and that remains to be seen if he'll have that this week. Advantage, Washington.

Weather: Fed Ex Field expects a high of 68F with a low of 50F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday - a nice, crisp evening is in store for this game. Weather shouldn't be too much of an issue for either team.

PHI Injuries: QB Donovan McNabb (Probable), WR Terrell Owens (Doubtful)
WAS Injuries: DL Philip Daniels (Probable), DL Cornelius Griffin (Questionable), DL Joe Salave'a (Questionable), DB Omar Stoutmire (Questionable)


San Diego Chargers Passing Offense at New York Jets Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Drew Brees is on a huge roll since LaDainain Tomlinson started to cool off - he's the 5th best fantasy QB over the past 3 weeks, with 62/103 for 787 yards, 6 TDs and 3 interceptions (3 games). Antonio Gates exploded last week for 10/145/3, while WRs Eric Parker (4/63/1) and Keenan McCardell (5/73/0) also assisted - Brees cranked out 25/43 for 324 yards, 3 TDs and 1 interception last week (Tomlinson tossed a 17 yard score, too). The Chargers are hot in this phase of the game.

The Jets play very well vs. opposing passers, allowing an average of 163.3 yards per game this season, with only 5 scores surrendered vs. 10 interceptions generated (t-4th most in the NFL to date). Over the past 3 weeks (2 games) they have averaged 134.5 yards passing allowed per game, and have 5 interceptions. Michael Vick tossed 3 interceptions and 0 TDs vs the Jets two weeks ago (11/26 for 116 yards).

Brees and company are hot, but the Jets are made of stern stuff, and they have home-field advantage. We think this looks like a tough matchup between top-flight units.

Weather: The forecast for Giants Stadium calls for a high of 65F and a low of 53F with a 20% chance for rain - sounds like great football weather to us.

SD Injuries: RB Andrew Pinnock (Doubtful), TE Ryan Krause (Out)
NYJ Injuries: DB Oliver Celestin (Out)


San Francisco 49ers Passing Offense vs New York Giants Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Ken Dorsey is in a walking boot and is doubtful to play this week. Rookie "star" Alex Smith has a bum ankle and does not appear ready to return to the lineup. That leaves 3rd string QB/special teamer Cody Pickett to run the show - last week he threw for 1/1 for 10 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions, with 2/12/0 rushing. With 5/11 for 65 yards, 0 TDs and 2 interceptions passing during his 2 year profession career (and 3/17/0 rushing), it's fair to say that Pickett is an "unknown quantity" going into this game. Trust the Giants to test him with lots of blitzes early and often.

The Giants field the league's 30th ranked pass D, allowing an average of 266 yards per contest. They are tied for 17th in the NFL with 16 sacks to date, but are close to the top of the heap in interceptions generated, with 10 so far. Overall, this defense is a mixed bag of good and bad points. Last week, they pulled it all together and dominated Mark Brunell and the Redskins, allowing only 14/34 for 127 yards, 0 TDs and 1 interception (with 5 sacks). The Giants come into this game with momentum at their back.

Pickett faces an uphill battle against the energized Giants.

Weather: Out by the Bay, the 49ers faithful can expect a high of 65F with a low of 55F and a 10% chance of rain. Heck, these guys showed they can beat the Buccaneers fielding their 3rd-string QB - the home team can beat anybody on any given Sunday! The weather will be outstanding for playing and watching pro football.

SF Injuries: QB Ken Dorsey (Questionable), QB Alex Smith (Questionable), RB Chris Hetherington (Questionable), RB Maurice Hicks (Questionable), RB Terry Jackson (Questionable), WR Arnaz Battle (Questionable), WR Otis Amey (Questionable)
NYG Injuries: DL Justin Tuck (Questionable), LB Carlos Emmons (Questionable), DB Shaun Williams (Probable), DB William Peterson (Out)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Passing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Chris Simms was not horrible, but he wasn't spectacular against the 49ers, tossing 21/34 for 264 yards, 1 TD and 2 interceptions. He relied heavily on Joey Galloway, targeting him 13 times for 8/149/1 (Galloway is tied for 10th in the NFL with 67 targets so far during 2005, with 39/648/5 to show for all the action - he's the 5th best fantasy WR in fantasy points per game this year). Michael Clayton snagged 4/30/0 on the day with 7 balls coming his way; Alex Smith hauled in 2/43/0 from the TE position (3 targets). It was a good day to own Galloway - otherwise the pickings were slim last week.

The Panthers' pass defense has not been spectacular this year, allowing an average of 232.6 passing yards per contest (26th in the NFL) with 10 passing scores surrendered. Lately, though, they have turned up the heat with 10 sacks during their last 2 games (tied for 2nd-most sacks over the last 3 weeks) and only 2 TDs given up in both phases of the game during that span. They averaged only 164 passing yards surrendered in that time-frame, including last weeks' total of 16/32 for 190 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions to the Culpepper-deprived Vikings.

Simms is attempting to get up to speed, but the Panthers are roaring into Tampa going full-bore for this key matchup. This one looks like a tough matchup for the Bucs.

Weather: Raymond James Stadium expects a high of 83F with a low of 67F and a 20% chance for rain. If the precipitation holds off, it should be a great day to play some football.

TB Injuries: RB Michael Pittman (Questionable)
CAR Injuries: DL Mike Rucker (Probable)


Carolina Panthers Passing Offense at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Steve Smith is running wild right now, especially in fantasy circles, with 11/201/1 receiving last week, 1st among all fantasy WRs; 17/324/2 over the past 3 weeks (2 games), 1st in fantasy points per game; and 50/797/8 this season (70 targets), to rank, you guessed it, 1st among all fantasy wide receivers. QB Jake Delhomme is red hot as well, with 21/30 for 341 yards, 3 TDs and 0 interceptions last week and 36/55 for 577 yards, 5 TDs and 3 interceptions over the past 3 weeks to rank 2nd among fantasy QBs during that span. These are 2 guys that should be starting every week right now.

This week, though, the Panthers face a tough challenge in Tampa Bay - the Bucs rank 3rd in the NFL allowing only 154 passing yards per game, and are 1st in the league with 2 passing scores surrendered to date. Even though they tripped up against the 49ers last week, San Francisco only managed 8/19 for 50 yards, 0 TDs and 0 interceptions passing - you can't blame the loss on the Buc's secondary. This is one of the elite pass defenses in the NFL, folks.

Steve Smith is obviously a must start in any league but just know that the Panthers will have their hands full with Tampa in Tampa on Sunday.

Weather: Raymond James Stadium expects a high of 83F with a low of 67F and a 20% chance for rain. If the precipitation holds off, it should be a great day to play some football.

CAR Injuries: RB Stephen Davis (Probable)
TB Injuries: LB Derrick Brooks (Probable), DB Dexter Jackson (Doubtful)


Houston Texans Passing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Defense (Bad Matchup)

David Carr only absorbed 2 sacks last week (it must have felt like a vacation for the beleaguered Texans' starter), which allowed him to compile a modest-but-effective outing vs. Cleveland - 10/20 for 138 yards, 1 TD and 1 interception on the day. In the continuing absence of Andre Johnson, Jabar Gaffney led the way with 5/64/0 while Jerome Mathis hauled in the passing score with 1/34/1. There isn't much to get excited about in fantasy terms on this squad, though.

Jacksonville deploys a top-5 secondary that averages 158.1 passing yards allowed per game (5th in the NFL). They are 3rd in the league with 11 interceptions to date, and over the past 3 weeks(2 games) have generated 6 interceptions while allowing only 165.5 passing yards per game. St. Louis' Jamie Martin compiled 13/21 for 200 yards, 2 TDs and 3 interceptions vs. these guys in last week's game. The Jags are fielding one of the league's best secondaries at the half way point. They have slammed the opposition for 4 sacks during their last 2 games, and claim 16 to their credit this year (tied for 17th in the NFL) - expect the Jags' sack total to go up this week.

A very tough pass defense squares off against the worst pass-blocking OL in the NFL in this matchup. Your one-week vacation is over, Mr. Carr.

Weather: The forecast for Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium calls for a high of 83F with a low of 66F and a 20% chance for rain. As long as the skies don't open up, it should be a great day to play some tackle football.

HOU Injuries: RB Domanick Davis (Probable), WR Andre Johnson (Questionable)
JAX Injuries: DL Marcus Stroud (Questionable), DB Deon Grant (Questionable)




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