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  Passing Matchups  

Week 4 Rushing Matchups

[ARI] [ATL] [BAL] [BUF] [CAR] [CIN] [DAL] [DEN] [DET] [GB] [HOU] [IND] [JAX] [KC] [MIN] [NE] [NO] [NYG] [NYJ] [OAK] [PHI] [SD] [SEA] [SF] [STL] [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.


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs Minnesota Vikings Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Atlanta. Tops in the league in rushing yardage per game (183.7 per), with 4 rushing scores in 3 games. Second in the league at 5.3 yards per carry. Warrick Dunn is 26th among fantasy RBs with 52/268/0 rushing and 2/5/0 receiving, Vick leads all QBs in rushing yards with 28/175/1, and T.J. Duckett actually ranks higher than Dunn at #24, chipping in with 24/108/3. It's all good for Atlanta on the ground as a team, although the split between Duckett and Dunn is holding down their individual fantasy value.

The Minnesota rush D is not strong, allowing an average of 142.3 yards per game over the first 3 games, ranking 30th in the NFL in this department (3 scores given up so far). Last week they surrendered 20/114/1 to Deuce McAllister and company (5.7 yards per carry). The Vikings don't scare anybody when it comes to rush defense.

The best rushing attack in the league faces off against one of the worst rush defenses around. Advantage, Atlanta.

Weather: This game will be played in the air-conditioned comfort of the Georgia Dome. Weather will not be a factor in the matchup.

ATL Injuries: WR Dez White (Probable)
MIN Injuries: DL Kenechi Udeze (Questionable), DL Lance Johnstone (Doubtful), LB Sam Cowart (Probable), LB Dontarrious Thomas (Probable), LB E.J. Henderson (Questionable), DB Darren Sharper (Questionable), DB Brian Williams (Out)


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense at New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Willis McGahee hasn't been the top 10 back most fantasy owners expected during the opening weeks of 2005, amassing 62/291/1 rushing and 4/14/0 receiving to rank 16th among all fantasy backs. However, last week he appeared in the top 10 with 27/140/1 against the Falcons (7th best fantasy RB last week). The Bills average 4.2 yards per carry as a team, which is an encouraging sign that McGahee should continue to produce quality fantasy points.

The road-weary Saints folded against the Vikings last week, 33-16, and coughed up 38/147/0 to a Viking's attack that could barely get past the line of scrimmage during the first 2 weeks of the season. They rank 26th in the NFL surrendering an average of 126.7 rushing yards per game, with 3 rushing scores given up to date. They're just not very good at stopping the opposing runners.

An elite back like McGahee should slice and dice the bottom-tier Saint rush defense.

Weather: This week the Bills visit the Saints in their temporary home at the Alamodome -conditions in the air conditioned dome should be perfect.

BUF Injuries: WR Roscoe Parrish (Out), TE Tim Euhus (Questionable)
NO Injuries: DL Darren Howard (Questionable), DL Brian Young (Questionable), DB Fakhir Brown (Questionable), DB Mike McKenzie (Questionable), DB Dwight Smith (Questionable), DB Jay Bellamy (Out)


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense vs Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Rudi Johnson has to have a big smile on his face. The woeful Texans are coming to town. Johnson ran for 25/84/0 and snagged 2/-2/0 receiving vs. the hard-nosed Bears last week - the going will be easier against the Texans. Expect Johnson to boost his 15th ranking among fantasy RBs after this week (so far during 2005 he's amassed 73/300/1 rushing and 5/13/0 receiving - Johnson is getting plenty of work each game).

How soft is the Houston rush defense? They allow an average of 143.5 rushing yards per game (31st in the NFL). They surrendered 32/145/1 to Pittsburgh before the bye week (that is the only running score they gave up in the first 2 weeks). There just isn't a lot of optimism in Houston these days.

Johnson hasn't been explosive recently, but he has a great chance to rack up big fantasy points this week.

Weather: The forecast for Paul Brown Stadium calls for a high of 74F with a low of 55F and a 20% chance of precipitation. That sounds like ideal football weather to us.

CIN Injuries: RB Rudi Johnson (Probable)
HOU Injuries: DL Gary Walker (Out), LB Jason Babin (Probable), DB Lewis Sanders (Probable)


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense vs Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

55/174/3 rushing and 12/68/0 receiving places Deuce McAllister at 12th among all fantasy RBs so far during 2005. The Saints average 3.8 rushing yards per carry as a team so far, and are 20th in the league averaging 95.7 rushing yards per game. Last week, the lame Vikings' rush defense (30th in the NFL) allowed 14/63/1 to McAllister on the ground (20/114/1 to New Orleans as a team) - McAllister added 4/19/0 receiving. He's been a decent fantasy player so far, but he has yet to string together a series of strong games in the trying road-weary existence the Saints have been forced to endure.

Guess who fields the weakest rush defense in the NFL? Would you believe the Bills? Add to this unfortunate statistic the fact that the bottom-ranking Bills (an average of 174 rushing yards allowed per game, with 4 rushing scores surrendered to date) just lost key LB Takeo Spikes to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury, and are playing LB London Fletcher who calls himself 80% due to a hamstring injury ("Some of the plays that I'm normally able to make, from sideline to sideline, running and pursuing plays and getting after the quarterback, I wasn't able to do because of my limited ability.") - you have to conclude this unit is struggling. Atlanta slapped them around for 36/236/1 last week; Tampa nailed them for 40/191/2 the week prior.

New Orleans has an elite back in Deuce McAllister - the Bills rush D is imploding in what we've seen so far due to injuries and looks very vulnerable right now. Advantage, New Orleans.

Weather: This week the Bills visit the Saints in their temporary home at the Alamodome -conditions in the air conditioned dome should be perfect.

NO Injuries: RB Aaron Stecker (Questionable), WR Az-zahir Hakim (Questionable), WR Joe Horn (Questionable)
BUF Injuries: LB Takeo Spikes (Out), DB Coy Wire (Questionable)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense vs Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Cadillac Williams is cruising through NFL defensive fronts. He's shattering rookie rushing records, and is on pace for 2,000+ rushing yards (88/434/2 in 3 games, with a 4.9 yards per carry average). Start him and smile, you lucky Williams owners.

Detroit went into the bye week smarting after Thomas Jones (20/139/2) and company slapped down 37/187/2 against their defensive front. They are the 23rd ranked rush defense in the land, allowing an average of 116.5 rushing yards per game (2 scores in 2 games). So far, we're not impressed.

Just think what Cadillac Williams is likely to do to a dome team like the Lions playing in the heat and humidity of Raymond James Stadium. Ouch, Lions fans - but Williams owners will be smiling come Monday.

Weather: Tampa expects 89F for a high and 73F for a low on Sunday, with a 30% chance of rain forecast for Raymond James Stadium. If the rain comes down hard at game time, slippery footing and ball-exchange could become issues for both teams.

TB Injuries: RB Cadillac Williams (Probable)
DET Injuries: DL James Hall (Questionable), LB Teddy Lehman (Probable), LB Alex Lewis (Doubtful)


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense vs New York Jets Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Baltimore ranks last in the NFL in average rushing yards per game this season, after facing Indianapolis and Tennessee. Yes, you read that right. Jamal Lewis is 42nd among fantasy backs with 26/57/0 rushing and 5/36/0 receiving to date. He could only post 10/9/0 vs Tennessee during the week 2 game. Something is seriously wrong with the Ravens' rushing attack - they average 2.7 yards per carry to date. Sure, part of the problem is nobody respects their passing attack so they can load the box with 8 or 9 guys, but you expect more out of Lewis than 9 measly rushing yards on any given Sunday, no matter what.

The Jets got torn apart by Fred Taylor and company last week, giving up 47/139/1 to the Jaguars. That's right on pace for this 29th ranked rush defense, who surrender an average of 134 rushing yards per game, with 4 rushing scores allowed in 3 games. They just aren't very good right now.

If Lewis is going to get his game back, this is an ideal matchup to begin again with - advantage, Baltimore (at home, by the way).

Weather: The forecast for M and T Bank Stadium calls for a high of 75F and a low of 58F, with a 20% chance for rain. That sounds like perfect football weather to us.

BAL Injuries: none
NYJ Injuries: DL Shaun Ellis (Probable), DL Trevor Johnson (Probable), DL James Reed (Probable), LB Eric Barton (Out)


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense vs Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Carolina's RB stable averages only 3.5 yards per carry this season - there hasn't been a ton of running room, as their 16th rank among rushing offenses shows (average of 102 yards per game, with 4 rushing scores to date). Stephen Davis is 11th among all fantasy RBs in fantasy points per game to date, with 54/194/4 rushing and 2/16/0 receiving in 3 games, including last week's 16/36/0 rushing and 2/16/0 receiving effort vs. Miami. Davis struggled badly at the goal line last week. DeShaun Foster ranks 31st with 24/105/0 rushing and 7/86/0 receiving over 3 games (8/27/0 and 3/48/0 last week). Davis is the stronger fantasy player right now, but Foster is a decent bye-week stand-in type back at #31, depending on your league's scoring system.

Green Bay's rush defense has been decent, overall, this season, currently ranking 16th in the NFL allowing an average of 106 yards per game, with 0 TDs surrendered to date. Last week they were hit by a Cadillac, though, and coughed up 41/161/0 at home in Lambeau. It's fair to say that the 0-3 Packers are reeling at this point.

Carolina has two talented backs to throw at the stumbling Packers, and the Panthers have home field advantage. The Panthers should have a good shot at a solid game on Monday Night Football.

Weather: On Monday night, Bank of America Stadium should be closer to the forecast low of 58F than the high of 81F - a nice cool night to play some football is on tap. With a 0% chance of rain on the horizon, field conditions should be near-perfect.

CAR Injuries: TE Mike Seidman (Questionable)
GB Injuries: DL Aaron Kampman (Probable), DB Joey Thomas (Probable), DB Ahmad Carroll (Questionable)


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense at Oakland Raiders Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Julius Jones helped rally the Cowboys over San Francisco last week, pitching in 26/85/2 to the team total of 32/95/3. He's the 6th best fantasy RB after 3 contests in points per game, with totals of 74/259/3 rushing and 11/70/0 receiving. The Cowboys average only 3.1 yards per carry so far this year, though - the OL needs to do a better job of opening holes for Jones.

Oakland did a so-so job vs. the Eagles' RB stable last week, surrendering 18/83/1 to Brian Westbrook and company. They weren't trampled, but they didn't shut them down, either. That's been the book on this group all season - they rank 11th in terms of rushing yards allowed per game (93.7 on average), but they've given up 5 rushing scores during the first 3 games (2nd-most behind the Cardinals' 7). They're mediocre to sub-par depending on the week this year.

Jones is a bright and emerging star in this league, while the Raiders are fairly soft in this phase. The McAfee Coliseum crowd will help out their beloved team, but not enough to level the playing field. Advantage, Dallas.

Weather: McAfee Coliseum expects perfect football weather on Sunday - 69F for a high, 53F for a low, with a 10% chance for precipitation.

DAL Injuries: none
OAK Injuries: DL Edward Jasper (Questionable), DB Charles Woodson (Probable)


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Edgerrin James continued his run as a top fantasy back last week, posting 27/108/1 rushing and 2/29/0 receiving (8th best fantasy back in the land). So far this season, he's the 8th best fantasy RB with 77/324/1 rushing and 9/94/0 receiving - it was good to see him back in the end-zone last week, though. The Colts have been leaning on James and the defense this season - as a unit, the Colts rank 13th in the NFL with an average of 114.3 rushing yards per game, although their 3.5 yards per carry average is sub-standard (tie-21st in the NFL).

The Titans' rush D runs in the middle of the NFL pack, ranking 17th allowing an average of 107 yards per game, with 2 rushing scores surrendered to date. Last week they were right on pace, giving up 21/101/0 to the St. Louis tandem of Faulk and Stevens (an average of 4.8 yards per carry allowed). The Titans have not dominated opposing RB stables this year.

Edgerrin James is an elite back with the ability to explode on any given Sunday, while the Titans are merely adequate at defending the run. Even with home field advantage at their back, we give the nod to James and the Colts this week.

Weather: The forecast for Tennessee's Coliseum calls for a high of 81F with a low of 60F and a 20% chance for precipitation. Spectators should enjoy a great day of football and tailgating in those conditions.

IND Injuries: RB Ran Carthon (Probable), RB Dominic Rhodes (Doubtful), RB James Mungro (Out), WR Troy Walters (Questionable), TE Ben Utecht (Doubtful)
TEN Injuries: DL Albert Haynesworth (Questionable), LB Peter Sirmon (Questionable), DB Justin Sandy (Questionable), DB Vincent Fuller (Out)


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Eagles are in the bottom 1/3 of the NFL this season, averaging 91.3 rushing yards per game. However, this is not unusual as the team utilizes their top back, Brian Westbrook, in both the rushing and passing game - they run just enough to keep defenses honest. After 3 games, Westbrook is 2nd among all fantasy backs in points per game, with 40/204/1 rushing and 16/235/3 receiving. He absolutely exploded vs. Oakland last week, posting 13/68/1 rushing and 6/140/1 receiving to rank 3rd among all fantasy backs behind the duo of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shaun Alexander (both of whom scored 4 TDs last week). Westbrook comes into this game hot.

The Broncos shattered the Chiefs' defensive front on Monday night, rushing for 37/221/2 as a team (Mike Anderson led the charge with 20/98/1, including a long of 44 yards). As a result, Kansas City's season average plummeted into the bottom third of the league (22nd), to 116.3 rushing yards allowed per game, with 3 rushing scores surrendered to date. However, they actually looked pretty decent week 1 and week 2 - the horrendous game vs. Denver is skewing the average downwards.

The crafty Eagles will take what the defense gives them - the Chiefs aim to be more stingy this week vs. the opposing running backs. The question will be whether the defense we saw Monday night will return. If it does, we see this as a pretty good matchup for Kansas City.

Weather: Arrowhead Stadium expects a high of 71F with a low of 57F and a 20% chance for rain. If the forecast holds up, both teams will enjoy optimum conditions.

PHI Injuries: QB Donovan McNabb (Probable), WR Terrell Owens (Probable)
KC Injuries: DL Gary Stills (Probable), DL Carlos Hall (Questionable), DL Ryan Sims (Out), LB Keyaron Fox (Out), DB Dexter McCleon (Probable)


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense vs San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Cardinals have averaged 67.7 rushing yards per game over the first 3 contests of the season - there just hasn't been much to get excited over if you have a Cardinal back on your roster. Marcel Shipp leads the stable with 29/105/0 rushing and 9/60/0 receiving to date over a disappointing J.J. Arrington. We'd look elsewhere for your starters until the Cardinal's OL remembers how to run block (tied for 21st in the NFL averaging 3.5 yards per carry to date).

The 49ers rush D runs in the middle of the NFL pack, averaging 18th in the NFL allowing an average of 108 rushing yards per game so far this year. They're not particularly tough at the goal-line, either, surrendering 4 rushing scores over the first 3 games. Last week, Dallas torched them for 3 rushing scores while gaining 32/95 as a team. The 49ers just don't have a dominant defensive front, folks. Worse yet, their best LB Julian Peterson suffered a hamstring injury late in the game last week - keep an eye on his status as game-time approaches.

As this game is being played at a neutral site, neither squad has home-field advantage. The 49ers are mediocre in this phase, while the Cardinals have been weak. Looks pretty even to us.

Weather: This NFL special is to be played in Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico. The forecast for the Distrito Federal calls for a high of 74F with a low of 53F and a 30% chance for precipitation. As this is a night game, expect the conditions to be on the cool side. If the rain comes down hard around game time, footing and ball handling could be issues for both teams. This stadium seats 100,000 people, so if they get into the game crowd noise could be an issue for both squads.

ARI Injuries: QB Kurt Warner (Out), RB Harold Morrow (Probable), RB James Jackson (Questionable), WR Reggie Swinton (Probable)
SF Injuries: LB Julian Peterson (Questionable), DB Ahmed Plummer (Doubtful)


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Broncos ran rough-shod over the Chiefs last week, racking up 37/221/2 as a team. Mike Anderson led the way with 20/98/1, and Ashley Lelie ran wild on two reverses, hitting for 2/56/0. Plummer ran in the other score on a naked bootleg (5/9/1). They currently rank 9th in the league as a team with an average of 129.7 rushing yards per game, and are 3rd in yards per carry with 4.7 per rush. As long as Anderson continues to play through his rib injury, the Broncos have got something going here, folks. He's currently the 28th ranked fantasy RB in the land with 39/152/1 rushing and 3/41/0 receiving, but his early exit during week 1 with his rib injury accounts for most of the reason Anderson's not in the top 20.

The Jaguars contained Curtis Martin and company last week, giving up 25/89/1 to the Jets en route to a 27-20 victory. They tend to give up a healthy chunk of yardage each week (110.7 on average, 19th in the league), but their backbones stiffen in the red-zone (only 2 rushing scores allowed over 3 games). These guys are pretty tough to play against.

The Broncos are gaining momentum as their running game jells, while the Jaguars present a solid defensive front. With the game going down in Jacksonville, we think these two top teams are evenly matched.

Weather: The forecast for Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville calls for a high of 85F with a low of 74F and a 30% chance for rain. If the precipitation falls heavily around game time, footing and ball handling could be issues for both teams (we saw some examples of this last week at Lambeau - a bad long snap by Green Bay and the slick footing affected the outcome of the game).

DEN Injuries: RB Tatum Bell (Probable), RB Cecil Sapp (Probable), WR Nate Jackson (Probable), WR Rod Smith (Probable), WR Todd Devoe (Questionable), TE Jeb Putzier (Probable)
JAX Injuries: DL Reggie Hayward (Probable), DL Marcus Stroud (Questionable), DB Rashean Mathis (Probable)


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Fred Taylor has been steadily gaining confidence in his healed knee, and it shows. So far during 2005, he's rushed for 73/255/1 with 5/32/0 receiving, ranking 18th among all fantasy backs. Last week, he just missed a 100 yard game, with a heavy workload of 37 carries for 98 yards and 1 TD (a 3 yard, goal-line situation run, something he didn't see much of last season). He has yet to break off a long-gainer (last week his long was 14), but you can see it coming. The Jaguars rank 10th in the NFL as a team right now, averaging 128.7 rushing yards per game, with a 3.8 yards-per-carry average. Not outstanding, but nothing to sniff at, either.

The Denver Broncos are right in the middle of NFL rush defenses this season, ranking 16th in the league allowing an average of 101.3 rushing yards per game, with 3 TDs given up to date. Last week, they looked great containing Kansas City's two headed monster of Holmes/Johnson, allowing only 22/74/0 to the tandem (the Broncos jumped out to a 17-0 lead, limiting the number of runs the Chiefs called while playing catch-up all evening). They form a decent, but not dominating, defensive front.

In Jacksonville, Taylor and company are good but they'll match a pretty good and improving rushing defense.

Weather: The forecast for Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville calls for a high of 85F with a low of 74F and a 30% chance for rain. If the precipitation falls heavily around game time, footing and ball handling could be issues for both teams (we saw some examples of this last week at Lambeau - a bad long snap by Green Bay and the slick footing affected the outcome of the game).

JAX Injuries: WR Cortez Hankton (Out)
DEN Injuries: LB Patrick Chukwurah (Questionable), DB Sam Brandon (Probable), DB Darrent Williams (Probable), DB Roc Alexander (Questionable), DB Champ Bailey (Questionable)


Minnesota Vikings Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Mewelde Moore grabbed the top job in Minnesota last week (we think) with a strong game (23/101/0 rushing and 1/3/0 receiving) and the stable added up to 38/147/0, giving the Vikings something they've lacked the first 2 games - a viable rush attack. We'll see if they can keep it up this week.

Atlanta has allowed only 2 rushing scores this season, but they are generous with the yards, surrendering an average of 128.7 per game to date. Willis McGahee and company racked up 35/172/1 vs. this group last week - not too stout, folks. The Falcons need to regroup before the Vikings come to town.

Moore looked good last week, but the Vikings' line is dealing with some off-field distractions this week (starter Bryant McKinnie and Marcus Johnson were arrested for an altercation at a gas station early Monday morning), and the Vikings' production in this phase has been erratic. Atlanta is back on their heels after McGahee trampled them, but have home-field advantage at their back. We call this an even matchup between two mediocre-to-subpar units.

Weather: This game will be played in the air-conditioned comfort of the Georgia Dome. Weather will not be a factor in the matchup.

MIN Injuries: RB Moe Williams (Probable), WR Nate Burleson (Out)
ATL Injuries: DL Brady Smith (Probable), DB Allen Rossum (Probable), DB Jason Webster (Probable)


New England Patriots Rushing Offense vs San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Corey Dillon is not impressing us as the featured Patriots back. He's 10th among all fantasy RBs on the strength of 4 rushing TDs, but has only managed 59/160 rushing (4/53/0 receiving) for a paltry 2.7 yards per carry. New England's yards-per-carry average as a team is an embarrassing 2.5 yards per carry, and they just lost one of their best linemen, LT Matt Light, for an extended period due to his right leg injury. While averaging 63.7 rushing yards per game (30th in the NFL), the Patriots have jammed in 4 rushing scores, so at least they are finding pay dirt in the red zone. 21/61/2 rushing (2/23/0 receiving) was the mark he put up against the Steelers last week. As long as Dillon continues to find the endzone, he'll be a nice fantasy play, but the weeks he gets shut out (like week 2: 14/36/0 rushing, 0/0/0 receiving) are gonna sting for his owners.

The Chargers did a nice job containing Tiki Barber and company last week, holding the Giants to 23/86/0 during their 45-23 romp. Even with the strong performance though, they rank 14th in the NFL this year allowing an average of 97.7 rushing yards per game (2 rushing scores surrendered to date). They are a middle-of-the-road unit so far during 2005.

Corey Dillon looks like he's lost a half-step, folks. That's all it takes to become very ordinary as a RB in the NFL. The Chargers are only mediocre in rush defense, but the Patriots have been pretty sorry rushing the ball through 3 games. Looks pretty even.

Weather: The weather service says that Gillette Stadium will see a high of 71F and a low of 48F on Sunday, with a 20% chance for rain. It should be a great day to play and watch football up in New England.

NE Injuries: QB Tom Brady (Probable), RB Kevin Faulk (Out)
SD Injuries: DL Shaun Phillips (Probable)


Oakland Raiders Rushing Offense vs Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

LaMont Jordan struggled running the ball last week. 16/19/0 rushing is not what the team had in mind when they brought him in from the Jets during the off-season. It's not completely his fault that the team averages 2.9 yards per carry this season - obviously, the OL is not opening lanes for the backs to exploit nearly often enough. Jordan did add 5/53/1 receiving during the game, so he did contribute for his fantasy owners - however, Oakland needs to fix their OL problems in a hurry if they want to climb out of their 0-3 hole. Jordan is 14th at his position in fantasy points per game to date, with 49/148/1 rushing and 16/125/1 receiving - he's seeing plenty of touches, but last week he was shut down in the rushing game.

Dallas was unimpressive vs. the 49ers anemic RB stable last week, surrendering 25/124/0 to a group that could barely scrape up 50 yards rushing during the previous two games. That total was just slightly more than their 20th ranked average of 110.3 rushing yards allowed per game this season. However, when teams get near the goal line the Cowboys get tougher - only 1 rushing score allowed to date.

The Raiders are struggling to run the ball at all lately, while the Cowboys are giving between the 20s but stingy at the goal line so far. This should be a neutral matchup for Oakland.

Weather: McAfee Coliseum expects perfect football weather on Sunday - 69F for a high, 53F for a low, with a 10% chance for precipitation.

OAK Injuries: WR Ronald Curry (Out), TE Courtney Anderson (Probable), TE John Paul Foschi (Questionable)
DAL Injuries: none


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense at Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

San Francisco is near the bottom of the NFL pack as a team, averaging 3.4 yards per carry (25th in the league) and 72 rushing yards per game (27th).

The Cardinals are not good at defending vs. the rush this season, ranking 28th in the league allowing an average of 130.7 rushing yards per game while coughing up a league-worst 7 rushing scores to date. Last week, they were utterly humiliated by Shaun Alexander, who stuffed 22/140/4 down the Card's collective throats (a 6.4 yards per carry average).

Two weak units face off in Mexico City and while we have a hard time getting too fired up about the 49er rushing attack, it won't get much better for them than this.

Weather: This NFL special is to be played in Azteca Stadium, Mexico City, Mexico. The forecast for the Distrito Federal calls for a high of 74F with a low of 53F and a 30% chance for precipitation. As this is a night game, expect the conditions to be on the cool side. If the rain comes down hard around game time, footing and ball handling could be issues for both teams. This stadium seats 100,000 people, so if they get into the game crowd noise could be an issue for both squads.

SF Injuries: WR Arnaz Battle (Probable)
ARI Injuries: LB Gerald Hayes (Out), DB David Macklin (Probable), DB Antrel Rolle (Out)


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense at New York Giants Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Rams have gained an average of 99.3 rushing yards per game as a team over the first 3 games (with a solid 4.3 yards per carry average) - their production as a team has been average (18th in the league), but nothing spectacular. Steven Jackson has 49/201/1 rushing and 6/35/0 receiving during the first 3 games to rank 22nd among fantasy RBs in points per game. Jackson's mentor Marshall Faulk has put up 12/77/0 rushing and 6/43/1 in a situational role.

The Giants had looked fairly stout vs. the oppositions' running games during weeks 1 and 2, but that changed in a hurry when they faced off against LaDainian Tomlinson and the Chargers on Sunday night. 21/192/3 were posted by Tomlinson, and the Chargers totaled 33/268/3 as a team last Sunday. An 8.1 yards allowed per carry average is an embarrassment at this level of competition, folks. The spanking put the Giant's season average into a free-fall - they are now 24th in the league averaging 123.7 rushing yards allowed per game after 3 contests (they have only allowed the 3 scores that Tomlinson notched so far).

So which Giants' defensive front will show up this week? The unit that held opposing backs scoreless in weeks 1 and 2, or the disaster we saw last week? Against the Ram's so-so attack and with home-field advantage at their back, we expect the Giants to get back to playing some tougher run defense, but time will tell. Right now, we're going to rate this a neutral matchup.

Weather: Giants Stadium expects a high of 74F with a low of 56F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday. Both teams will enjoy playing in the mild weather that is forecast.

STL Injuries: QB Marc Bulger (Probable), RB Steven Jackson (Questionable), WR Isaac Bruce (Doubtful), TE Brandon Manumaleuna (Probable)
NYG Injuries: LB Barrett Green (Questionable), DB William Peterson (Questionable), DB Corey Webster (Questionable)


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Clinton Portis managed 17/52/0 rushing and 4/25/0 receiving during a tough game vs. Dallas during week 2. He's the 21st ranked fantasy RB in FP per game, with 38/173/0 rushing and 4/25/0 receiving to date - not horrible, but hardly top 5, either. Ladell Betts has 16/58/0 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving - he's not having any better luck scoring TDs. As a team, the Redskins have racked up an average of 134 rushing yards per game against their opponents, ranking 7th in the NFL so far. They average 4.1 yards per carry, so the OL is doing their job adequately.

Seattle held the Cardinals to 21/90/0 last week during their blowout victory. They average 108 rushing yards allowed per game this year (tie, 18th in the NFL), but their spines stiffen in the red zone (only 1 rushing TD surrendered over the first 3 games). They aren't a dominating rush D, but they aren't pushovers, either.

Portis went into the break cold, and he's struggling to find the endzone again this season. Seattle is tough to score on, but does give up yards between the 20's. Expect Portis to find room to roam on Sunday, but 6 pointers will be hard to come by again this week.

Weather: The Washington area expects a high of 73F with a low of 54F and a 20% chance of rain. FedEx Field should be a great place to play a game of football this Sunday.

WAS Injuries: none
SEA Injuries: DB Kelly Herndon (Probable)


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense at Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Ahman Green has struggled mightily to open 2005. With the passing game sputtering at times, opposing defenses are paying more attention to Green and company. He's 25th overall among fantasy RBs in points per game so far, with 47/170/0 rushing and 13/106/0 receiving in 3 games. He's seeing an adequate number of touches, but hasn't been finding pay dirt. Against Tampa's league-leading rush D, he carried the ball 19 times for 58 yards, and hauled in 3 passes for 27 yards. The Packers average 79 rushing yards per game to date, and have scored 0 rushing scores in 3 games. 3.3 yards per carry is their average so far. Ouch. The offensive line needs to do a much better job run blocking.

The Panthers rank 12th in the NFL, allowing 94.7 rushing yards per game (with 3 TDs given up to date). However, last week they were hit for 30/144/1 by the Dolphins - the lack of Kris Jenkins is starting to show. They will enjoy home field advantage on Monday Night, though, which should be a boost.

The Packers have been weak at rushing the ball so far during 2005, while the Panthers were tough to open the season but faded badly last week. With home field at the defense's back, we see this as a slightly tough matchup.

Weather: On Monday night, Bank of America Stadium should be closer to the forecast low of 58F than the high of 81F - a nice cool night to play some football is on tap. With a 0% chance of rain on the horizon, field conditions should be near-perfect.

GB Injuries: WR Donald Driver (Probable), TE Bubba Franks (Questionable)
CAR Injuries: DL Kemp Rasmussen (Questionable), DL Al Wallace (Questionable), LB Will Witherspoon (Questionable), DB Ken Lucas (Questionable)


Kansas City Chiefs Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Priest Holmes carried the load for K.C. vs. the Broncos (Larry Johnson couldn't get any traction going, with 8/13/0 in his chances), gaining 14/61/0 rushing and 3/32/0 receiving during the blowout loss. So far, the Chief's rushing scheme of a 2:1 split between Holmes and Johnson has depressed Holmes fantasy value (55/221/2 rushing with 7/52/0 receiving, 13th fantasy RB in the land), but if Johnson keeps up with the 1.6 yards per carry you can bet things will change in a hurry. The Chiefs are 8th in the league this season, averaging 132.3 rushing yards per game (and they are 2nd in scoring, with 5 rushing TDs as a team).

Philadelphia did a great job bottling up LaMont Jordan and company last week, holding them to an embarrassing 1.0 yards per carry (22/21/0, with 14 of the yards coming on 1 run by Jordan). They rank 9th in the NFL after 3 games, allowing 93 rushing yards per game and 2 total TDs to date. The Eagles field a hard-nosed defensive front.

Kansas City has 2 talented backs in Holmes and Johnson (even though Johnson was ineffective last Monday night), but they face a stiff challenge from the Eagles.

Weather: Arrowhead Stadium expects a high of 71F with a low of 57F and a 20% chance for rain. If the forecast holds up, both teams will enjoy optimum conditions.

KC Injuries: RB Tony Richardson (Probable), TE Jason Dunn (Probable)
PHI Injuries: DL Juqua Thomas (Probable), DL Darwin Walker (Doubtful), LB Jeremiah Trotter (Probable), DB Roderick Hood (Probable), DB Lito Sheppard (Probable)


New York Giants Rushing Offense vs St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Tiki Barber had a rough night in San Diego, managing 15/60/0 rushing and 1/5/0 receiving, but the rushing game never really had a chance to get established after half time due to the huge lead the Chargers built during the second half. Brandon Jacobs was stuffed on 1 run for 0 yards and then left the game not to be heard from again. Usually Barber, who ranks 9th among all fantasy RBs in points per game with 50/205/2 rushing and 4/71/1 receiving this season, is much more effective both in real life and in fantasy football. Everybody has an off week now and then.

The Rams have been playing stout rush D this year, averaging 67.7 rushing yards allowed per game (3rd in the NFL so far)with only 1 rushing score surrendered to date. The Titans managed 24/87/0 vs. this defensive front last week - they look really tough heading into the 4th game of 2005.

The Rams are hard-nosed run defenders, but Tiki Barber and sidekick Brandon Jacobs are pretty talented backs. At the Giants' house, we see this as a tough matchup.

Weather: Giants Stadium expects a high of 74F with a low of 56F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday. Both teams will enjoy playing in the mild weather that is forecast.

NYG Injuries: RB Chad Morton (Questionable)
STL Injuries: DL Jimmy Kennedy (Probable), DB Terry Fair (Probable), DB Michael Hawthorne (Questionable)


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense at New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

There's the LaDainian Tomlinson we were looking for. He defined what fantasy football owners mean by "explosive potential" in real time on Sunday. 1/1 for 26 yards and 1 TD passing; 21/192/3 rushing; 6/28/0 receiving. Those statistics speak for themselves.

The Patriots have deployed a solid rush D so far during 2005, averaging 91.7 rushing yards allowed per game, with 3 rushing scores given up so far. They cooled off red-hot Willie Parker (17/55/0 rushing) and held the Steelers to 23/79/0 during the game last week. These guys are pretty stout, despite losing Tedy Bruschi during the offseason.

Tomlinson asserted his elite status last week, but this week he has to face the World Champions in their house. You start LT against any defense out there but this still sounds like a tough matchup to us.

Weather: The weather service says that Gillette Stadium will see a high of 71F and a low of 48F on Sunday, with a 20% chance for rain. It should be a great day to play and watch football up in New England.

SD Injuries: WR Vincent Jackson (Probable), TE Ryan Krause (Probable)
NE Injuries: DL Marquise Hill (Questionable), LB Tully Banta-Cain (Questionable), DB Randall Gay (Questionable), DB Tyrone Poole (Questionable), DB Chad Scott (Questionable), DB Duane Starks (Questionable), DB James Sanders (Questionable)


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Shaun Alexander went "boom" last week. 22/140/4 rushing placed him second behind only LaDainian Tomlinson. With 64/357/5 rushing and 2/11/0 receiving this year, Alexander is the 3rd overall fantasy back after 3 weeks. Unless you also have Tomlinson and Westbrook on your roster, Alexander is a no-brainer starter.

Washington should be well rested coming off their bye week. They emerge ranked 2nd in the league vs. the rush, allowing an average of 65.5 rushing yards per game, with only 1 TD allowed to opposing backs to date. They held Dallas' stable to 29/90/0 in the Monday Night Football thriller week 2 - the Redskins are tough to move the ball on this year.

Alexander comes into this game red-hot, but the defense has home field advantage and they've been stout vs. the rush so far. Alexander is a must start against just about any defense but we're calling this a tough matchup.

Weather: The Washington area expects a high of 73F with a low of 54F and a 20% chance of rain. FedEx Field should be a great place to play a game of football this Sunday.

SEA Injuries: WR Peter Warrick (Questionable)
WAS Injuries: LB Lemar Marshall (Probable), DB Sean Taylor (Probable), DB Walt Harris (Questionable), DB Pierson Prioleau (Questionable)


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Titans have been subpar rushing as a team during 2005 so far, with an average of 3.7 yards per carry and only 93.7 rushing yards per game (21st in the NFL). Travis Henry has earned himself a 4 game vacation for violating the NFL substance abuse guidelines, so Chris Brown figures to get the biggest piece of what rushing pie there is to be had during the coming weeks. That's good news for Brown owners, because with Henry around gumming up the works, Brown is the 30th ranked fantasy RB in the land with 39/179/0 rushing and 5/30/0 receiving in 3 games. We'll see how much Brown improves now that he's essentially on his own (last week Brown compiled 20/83/0 rushing).

The Colts have yet to surrender a rushing TD this season (no, your eyes do not deceive you). In fact, they have allowed only 1 TD as a team during the first 3 games of the season. They rank 10th in the NFL vs. the rush, allowing an average of 93.3 rushing yards per game, and held Cleveland to 23/75/0 in their most recent contest. These guys are for real.

A subpar offensive unit meets one of the toughest defensive fronts in football - advantage, Colts.

Weather: The forecast for Tennessee's Coliseum calls for a high of 81F with a low of 60F and a 20% chance for precipitation. Spectators should enjoy a great day of football and tailgating in those conditions.

TEN Injuries: WR Courtney Roby (Questionable)
IND Injuries: DL Raheem Brock (Probable), DL Larry Tripplett (Probable), DL Vincent Burns (Out), LB David Thornton (Probable), LB Gilbert Gardner (Out), DB Joseph Jefferson (Out)


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Kevin Jones is off to a lack-luster start this year during the first two games (Detroit's bye was last week), ranking 32nd among fantasy RBs in points per game so far (33/109/0 rushing and 3/14/0 receiving to date). As a team, the Lions have managed a paltry 2.7 yards per carry so far this year, and stand at 29th in rushing yards per game (65.5, behind Arizona's 67.7 average). The Lions desperately need to get their engine fired up. Jones went into the bye week stone cold, after being stuffed by Chicago (8/22/0 rushing with 1/5/0 receiving).

Tampa Bay is not noted for being a friendly defensive front, currently ranking #1 in the NFL, averaging 51.7 rushing yards allowed per game, with 0 scores surrendered to date. Oh yeah, and they are in their home stadium this week. All they did at Lambeau last week was stuff the Packers' stable (25/75/0, a 3.0 yards per carry average). Detroit, we have a problem.

Jones is struggling to fire it up, while the Bucs' defenders are hot. Advantage, Tampa.

Weather: Tampa expects 89F for a high and 73F for a low on Sunday, with a 30% chance of rain forecast for Raymond James Stadium. If the rain comes down hard at game time, slippery footing and ball-exchange could become issues for both teams.

DET Injuries: QB Jeff Garcia (Out), RB Cory Schlesinger (Out)
TB Injuries: DB Dexter Jackson (Questionable)


Houston Texans Rushing Offense at Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Texans' rush attack is ranked right in the middle of the NFL pack right now, averaging 104 rushing yards per game (15th in the NFL). Domanick Davis is 19th among fantasy RBs in points per game, with 29/107/0 rushing and 6/42/1 receiving. Davis entered the bye coming off a decent performance vs. the tough Steelers, with 15/59/0 rushing and 4/33/1 receiving - he's the lone bright spot on the Texans' offense right now. That tells you where the Texans are.

Cincinnati's rush D is in the top 10 among NFL teams so far, ranking 8th in the league allowing an average of 92.7 yards per game and only 2 rushing scores over 3 games. Chicago managed 28/106/1 against them last week to avoid getting blanked by the Bengals. They are the Bungles no more - these guys are for real.

Cincinnati is surging right now, while the Texans are trying to adjust to a new offensive coordinator, Joe Pendry (elevated from OL coach), and burdened with a passing game that averages 66.5 net passing yards per game. Expect the Bengals to load the box and blitz like crazy, daring the Texans to pass the ball. This looks like a nasty matchup for the Texans' RB stable.

Weather: The forecast for Paul Brown Stadium calls for a high of 74F with a low of 55F and a 20% chance of precipitation. That sounds like ideal football weather to us.

HOU Injuries: none
CIN Injuries: DL Carl Powell (Probable), LB Brian Simmons (Probable)


New York Jets Rushing Offense at Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Curtis Martin is dinged up, and he was having a tough time getting the running game going with his #1 QB under center (29th ranking among all fantasy RBs, with 69/196/0 rushing and 7/30/0 receiving so far). Now he has to face the Raven's defensive front with a greenhorn under center? Uh oh, Martin owners - this looks like a tough situation.

Baltimore ranks 5th in the NFL this season, allowing an average of 91.5 rushing yards per game, and they have yet to allow a rushing score. Tennessee managed 29/97/0 against these guys two weeks ago - but they had Steve McNair under center to keep Baltimore honest.

It looks like the Jets are in for a long afternoon. The Ravens will load the box and blitz Bollinger silly, daring him to beat them throwing the ball. We like Curtis Martin but this looks like as tough a matchup as he'll see this season.

Weather: The forecast for M and T Bank Stadium calls for a high of 75F and a low of 58F, with a 20% chance for rain. That sounds like perfect football weather to us.

NYJ Injuries: QB Jay Fiedler (Out), QB Chad Pennington (Out), RB Jerald Sowell (Probable), RB B.J. Askew (Out)
BAL Injuries: none




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