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  Passing Matchups  

Week 20 Rushing 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.


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Shaun Alexander was unexpectedly knocked out of the lineup vs. Washington due to a concussion early on in the action (6/9/0 rushing). He is reportedly not suffering any after-effects this week (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/sports/2002744041_shaun17.html) - said coach Holmgren on Tuesday ""I'm assuming he'll be ready to practice on Wednesday. I had that feeling right after the game even, that he was a little bit better than I have seen other concussion guys. But in this day and age, we're being more careful with that type of injury, and it's the right thing to do...If they tell me he can go, he's going to go, because he didn't get very tired on Saturday, so he should be pretty fresh." Of course, the Seahawks would love to get the league MVP into the NFC championship game. In his absence last week, Maurice Morris put up 18/49/0 rushing and 1/16/0 receiving, with additional help coming from Mack Strong (3/40/0 rushing). One concern that cropped up this week is the legal situation around starting RT Sean Locklear, who was arrested under suspicion of assaulting his girlfriend after last week's playoff victory. He pled not guilty at the arraignment hearing - we expect the team to let the legal system take it's course before taking any punitive action towards Locklear.

Carolina fields a top rush D - they were dominating vs. Tiki Barber, who could only muster 13/41/0 rushing and 3/28/0 receiving during the wild-card round, but Thomas Jones and friends had some better results, with 27/97/2 (20/80/0 for Jones on the day). Carolina gave up an average of 91.6 rushing yards per game this past season (4th in the NFL) and only 9 TDs on the ground all year long. Dallas' big game against Carolina in week 16 skews their final 3 week average upwards (to 111.3 rushing yards allowed per game during weeks 15-17), but most of the time the Panthers are solid vs. opposing running backs.

Alexander is an elite back with home-field advantage at his back - the Panthers are also top-notch, though. We think this looks like a neutral matchup, with neither unit holding the upper hand. If Alexander can't go, then the Seattle backups face a very tough assignment.

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)


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense at Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Carolina lost Deshaun Foster for the rest of the playoffs last week when he broke his ankle during the game vs. Chicago. It's once again time for Nick Goings to step into the spotlight - two years ago, he was the Panthers' starter for the second half of the season, racking up 217/821/6 rushing and 45/394/1 receiving during the 2004 regular season (Goings has amassed 380/1408/6 rushing and 97/772/2 receiving during his 5 year career, all spent with the Panthers). He's a solid back with good receiving skills - last week he put up 10/34/0 rushing and 1/14/0 in relief of Foster after the ankle injury. Jamal Robertson figures to step into the backup/change of pace role as he has moved past Rod Smart on the depth chart.

As Clinton Portis discovered last week (17/41/0), the Seahawks are no joke in this phase of the game. Washington could only muster 25/59/0 against this defensive front, a 2.4 yards-per-carry average. Seattle's stout performance was no surprise, as they were stifling opposing backs throughout the 2005 regular season, allowing a miniscule 5 rushing scores all year long while averaging 94.4 rushing yards given up per game (5th in the NFL). Even with their backups in for long stretches during the final 3 weeks of the season, the team averaged only 64 rushing yards allowed per game, holding Green Bay's depleted stable to 33/68/1 during the season finale. These guys are tough customers.

Goings is a reliable-but-unspectacular running back - he'll have a tough time making much happen against the stifling Seahawks.

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)


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Denver battled through the tough New England defensive front to post 32/96/2 last week, the bulk of the yardage and touches going to Mike Anderson (19/69/2 rushing and 1/14/0 receiving), supported by change-of-pace speedster Tatum Bell (6/19/0 rushing last week) - it was a less even split than we'd seen during regular season, when Anderson took 58% of the 412 rushes handled by Anderson and Bell (239 carries for Anderson, 173 for Bell during regular season - both players had 18 receptions). One of Anderson's TDs was set up by Champ Bailey's 100-yard interception return that ended at the 1 yard line. Anderson's skills fit the situations the Broncos found themselves in last week, so he was the superior fantasy player.

Pittsburgh brings a dominant rush D into Mile High Stadium, ranking 3rd vs. opposing rushers this year allowing an average of 85.5 rushing yards per game (with 10 TDs given up in this phase over 16 games). Two weeks ago, Cincinnati managed 20/84/1 vs. Pittsburgh, and last week they bottled up Edgerrin James (13/56/1 rushing, with 14/58/1 as a team) - thus, they have averaged 71 rushing yards allowed per game during the playoffs: the Steelers gave up an average of 71.3 rushing yards per game during the final 3 weeks of the regular season, and only 3 scores (rushing and receiving). The Steelers are tough as nails vs. opposing running backs, and that attitude/performance has continued throughout the playoffs. Yards and TDs aren't easy to find in this phase when Pittsburgh comes to town.

The Denver stable faces a tough challenge this week - Pittsburgh is playing inspired football coming into the game, with a big chip on their shoulders.

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)


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense at Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

So far during the playoffs, Jerome Bettis (27/98/2 rushing) and Willie Parker (33/97/0 rushing and 6/60/1 receiving) are #1 and #2 in total fantasy points scored - last week against Indianapolis, Parker posted 17/59/0 rushing and 3/19/0 receiving, while Bettis also handled 17 carries (17/46/1) - of course, Bettis put the ball on the ground for what was very nearly a catastrophic goal-line fumble, but that is not usual for the sure-handed veteran (he hadn't fumbled at all during regular season/post-season until last week). Verron Haynes was mostly quiet last week, with 2/8/0 rushing and 1/0/0 receiving in his few chances - the Steelers racked up 42/112/1 all told.

Denver's defensive front was very tough to run on this past season, averaging 85.2 rushing yards allowed per game (2nd in the NFL) with only 10 TDs given up over 16 contests. They stayed on pace during the final 3 weeks of regular sesaon, holding their opposition to an average of 84.3 rushing yards per game, including limiting San Diego to 2/91/1 in the season finale - and that was without LB Al Wilson, who returned last week vs. New England and added 11 tackles (7 solo) to lead the team in tackles. The Patriots could only scrape up 21/79/0 at Mile High Stadium last week. Denver's rush D is playing at the top of their formidable game right now.

Pittsburgh has an intimidating 1-2 punch with Parker and Bettis, but the Broncos have home-field advantage, and they aren't going to run from a scrap. This one looks like a tough assignment for the Steelers' backs.

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)




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