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  Passing Matchups  

Week 5 Rushing Matchups

[ARI] [ATL] [BAL] [BUF] [CAR] [CHI] [CIN] [CLE] [DAL] [DEN] [DET] [GB] [HOU] [IND] [JAX] [MIA] [NE] [NO] [NYJ] [PHI] [PIT] [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.


Indianapolis Colts Rushing Offense at San Francisco 49ers Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The Colts' passing game exploded last week, but Edgerrin James wasn't forgotten (21/90/0 rushing and 2/12/1 receiving) - he's the 8th ranked fantasy RB this season with 98/414/1 rushing and 11/106/1 receiving. The team averages 110.8 rushing yards per game (16th in the NFL) with a sub-par 3.6 yards per carry so far, but James is thriving despite these challenges.

The 49ers held the Cardinals to 34/97/0 rushing - but we're talking the Cardinals, here. San Francisco averages 105.2 rushing yards allowed per game (19th in the NFL) and they've given away 4 rushing scores to date. Expect James to show them what a real NFL running back can do when supported by a lethal passing attack.

James should find room to roam as the 49ers secondary is surgically eviscerated by Manning and company on Sunday.

Weather: The forecast for Monster calls for a high of 67F and a low of 56F with a 20% chance of rain. It should be a great day to play a game of football.

IND Injuries: RB Dominic Rhodes (Questionable), RB James Mungro (Doubtful), TE Ben Utecht (Doubtful)
SF Injuries: LB Julian Peterson (Questionable), DB Derrick Johnson (Questionable), DB Ahmed Plummer (Out)


Miami Dolphins Rushing Offense at Buffalo Bills Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

Before the bye week, Ronnie Brown finally broke out vs. Carolina, with 23/132/1 rushing and 3/15/0 receiving to his credit. The Dolphins are 11th in the NFL with an average of 120.3 rushing yards per game (6th in the NFL averaging 4.5 yards per carry) - this team is successfully grinding out yards on the ground this season.

New Orleans racked up 41/167/1 against the fading Bills' D last week - the unit has been hit hard by injuries and is 31st in the NFL allowing an average of 172.2 yards per game, with 5 TDs given up to date (tied for 2nd-most in the NFL). The Bills aren't doing much to slow down, never mind stop, their opponents' running backs. This week, the injury-riddled defensive front got more bad news - starting DT Ron Edwards will miss this weeks game and possibly more time due to a shoulder injury sustained last week, just the latest in a series of injuries to starting defensive players (LB Takeo Spikes is out for the season due to an Achilles injury).

Brown is on the upswing, while the Bills are at the bottom of the NFL heap - advantage, Miami.

Weather: The forecast for Ralph Wilson Stadium calls for a high of 56F with a low of 39F and a 30% chance for rain. If the precipitation falls heavily during the game, footing and ball-handling could become issues for both teams.

MIA Injuries: none
BUF Injuries: DL Ron Edwards (Out), DB Coy Wire (Questionable)


Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Offense at New York Jets Rushing Defense (Great Matchup)

The early word out of Tampa at mid-week is that the coaching staff may hold Cadillac Williams out of the game on Sunday so that he can get his injured arch and his hamstring back to 100%. They are speculations that the foot injury helped lead to the hamstring injury as Williams may have been favoring the foot. In any case, it's looking doubtful that Williams will play on Sunday. His backup, Michael Pittman, slapped down 5/30/0 rushing and 6/96/1 receiving in relief of Williams last week, and figures to start if Williams is held out.

The Jets are pushovers in this phase of the game, allowing an average of 129.5 rushing yards per game (28th in the NFL) and surrendering a total of 5 rushing scores so far (tied for 2nd most in the NFL). Even plodding Baltimore managed 45/115/1 against this defensive front - they are weak.

Whoever starts for Tampa has a great matchup vs. the limp Jets' defensive front.

Weather: The forecast for Giants' stadium calls for a high of 61F with a low of 48F and a 60% chance for rain. If the precipitation falls heavily during the game, footing and ball-handling will likely become issues for both teams (this field sees double duty as the home field of both New York teams - the turf is more worn than other NFL stadiums as a result).

TB Injuries: RB Cadillac Williams (Questionable), WR Michael Clayton (Probable)
NYJ Injuries: LB Eric Barton (Questionable)


Atlanta Falcons Rushing Offense vs New England Patriots Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Atlanta is 1st in the NFL averaging 209 rushing yards per game, tied for 2nd with 6 rushing scores so far, and is 1st in the NFL averaging a ridiculous 5.8 yards per carry after 4 games. 32/233/1 for Vick so far in a little over 3 games; 70/394/1 for Dunn (with 3/12/0 receiving, good for 17th among all fantasy RBs so far); 38/148/4 for Duckett (24th among fantasy RBs in points per game). It's all good for the Falcons in the rushing department. Starting either Dunn or Duckett as your #2 RB makes sense - you know they will get a solid number of touches each game and opportunities to make something happen as far as TDs go (especially true of Duckett at the goal-line).

New England was trampled by the Chargers last week, laying down for 40/183/2. The Patriots rank 23rd in the NFL allowing 114.5 rushing yards per game, with 5 TDs given up to date (tied for 2nd-most in the NFL). The champs look very vulnerable in this phase of the game, folks.

The best rush attack in the league welcomes one of the bottom-tier rush defenses to town in this matchup - advantage, Atlanta.

Weather: Conditions inside the Georgia Dome's air conditioning should be perfect during the game.

ATL Injuries: QB Michael Vick (Probable)
NE Injuries: DL Marquise Hill (Questionable), DL Richard Seymour (Questionable), LB Tully Banta-Cain (Questionable), LB Matt Chatham (Questionable), DB Chad Scott (Questionable), DB Duane Starks (Questionable), DB James Sanders (Questionable), DB Randall Gay (Questionable), DB Tyrone Poole (Questionable)


Carolina Panthers Rushing Offense at Arizona Cardinals Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Stephen Davis and DeShaun Foster are combining to move the ball very well this season - the Panthers average 99.0 rushing yards per game (19th in the NFL) while they are tied for the NFL lead in rushing scores (6 so far). Davis has notched all 6 of the TDs, and ranks 7th among fantasy RBs in points per game with 73/245/6 rushing and 3/37/0 receiving (including last week's 19/51/2 rushing and 1/21/0 receiving effort). Meanwhile, Foster has piled up 33/143/0 rushing and 10/141/0 receiving to rank 31st among all fantasy RBs, with 9/38/0 rushing and 3/55/0 receiving (he led the team in receiving yardage last week) vs. Green Bay. In point-per-reception leagues, Foster is a decent bye-week/injury stand-in. Roughly 2/3 of the touches are going to Davis with 1/3 flowing to Foster so far during 2005.

Arizona stuffed the anemic 49ers last week, holding their stable to 14/51/0 in Azteca Stadium. They aren't usually so stout, averaging 110.8 rushing yards allowed per game, and the Cardinals lead the league with 7 rushing scores surrendered over 4 games. Their performance last week was probably more due to the 49ers ineptitude than a sudden resurgence among the Cardinals' defenders.

The Panthers' tandem is effective, while the Cardinals are weak in this phase of the game. Advantage, Charlotte.

Weather: The weatherman says that Sun Devil Stadium will see a high of 96F with a low of 71F and a 30% chance of rain. As this stadium does double-duty (Sun Devils' and Cardinals' home stadium), the turf is more worn than is usual in other venues - if the rain comes down heavily during the game, footing and ball-handling could be issues for both teams.

CAR Injuries: RB Stephen Davis (Probable), RB Rod Smart (Questionable)
ARI Injuries: LB Gerald Hayes (Out), DB David Macklin (Questionable), DB Raymond Walls (Questionable), DB Antrel Rolle (Out)


Chicago Bears Rushing Offense at Cleveland Browns Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Thomas Jones has played well enough to keep Cedric Benson on the bench. The Bears average 111.3 rushing yards per game (14th in the NFL) with a solid 4.0 yards-per-carry average and have 4 rushing TDs to their credit after 3 games. Jones is the 3rd ranked fantasy RB in points per game after 3 games and a bye week - 62/276/4 rushing and 9/41/0 receiving - and constitutes the one big weapon the Bears have to hurl at their opponents while rookie Kyle Orton learns to be an NFL QB. The Bears average a solid 4.0 yards per carry so far - Jones looks poised to continue with his productive season heading into the 2nd quarter of 2005.

Before the bye-week, Cleveland lost a close match to Indianapolis, allowing 33/111/1 to Edgerrin James and company during the game. The Browns have not been overpowering at run defense during their first 3 games, giving up an average of 125 rushing yards per game (26th in the NFL) with 2 scores allowed. They are below average in this phase, but Cleveland isn't a pushover at the goal-line. Both teams come into the game off a bye - they should be well-rested.

Jones is running the ball well, while Cleveland is pretty suspect vs. the rush. Advantage, Chicago.

Weather: Cleveland Browns Stadium expects a high of 56F with a low of 45F and a 30% chance for rain. If there is a lot of rain around or during game-time, footing and ball-handling could be issues for both teams.

CHI Injuries: QB Rex Grossman (Out), TE Desmond Clark (Probable)
CLE Injuries: DL Orpheus Roye (Questionable), LB Matt Stewart (Questionable)


Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Offense at Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Bengals ran into injury problems at center last week, losing starter Rich Braham and backup Larry Moore during the game (3rd stringer Eric Ghiaciuc was inactive due to a stomach bug). G Eric Steinbach ended up subbing as center for the second half last week. Even with all the turmoil along the line Rudi Johnson ran pretty well (19/88/0 rushing) averaging 4.6 yards per carry despite the problems. The Bengals rank 10th in the NFL as a rushing offense through 4 weeks, averaging 124 rushing yards per game (with 2 rushing scores to their credit). Johnson is the 18th ranked fantasy RB so far, with 92/388/1 rushing and 5/13/0 receiving to his credit.

Jacksonville was not impressive vs. the Bronco's RB stable last week, giving up 44/188/0 to their squad (33/115/0 to Mike Anderson) - it was a very sub-par outing for this defensive front. Right now, they rank 29th in the NFL allowing an average of 130 rushing yards per game (but have only let 2 rushing scores cross the goal-line). Jacksonville obviously needs to improve in this department.

The Bengals have some injury issues along their OL, but bring a top-tier attack to the table - Jacksonville is struggling to defend against the rush right now. Advantage, Cincinnati.

Weather: Alltel Stadium should see temperatures ranging from a high of 84F to a low of 72F on Sunday, with a 60% chance of rain. If the rain falls heavily at game time, footing and ball-handling could be issues for both teams.

CIN Injuries: RB Rudi Johnson (Probable), WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh (Questionable)
JAX Injuries: DL John Henderson (Probable), DL Marcus Stroud (Probable)


Green Bay Packers Rushing Offense vs New Orleans Saints Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Green Bay's rushing game is sad this season, folks. They average a mere 73.8 rushing yards per game (28th in the league) and only 3.2 yards per carry (28th in the NFL). Ahman Green is 27th among fantasy RBs to date, with 61/206/0 rushing and 17/129/0 receiving over 4 games. Last week he left early after a particularly quiet game, with 14/36/0 rushing and 4/23/0 receiving - not much is going right for the Packers' RBs right now. The team revealed on Tuesday that Green has a sprained right knee - keep an eye on his practice/injury status as the week goes along.

New Orleans couldn't do much to slow down the Bill's RB stable last week, surrendering 23/141/1 to the Bills (a 6.1 yards per carry average). They are near the bottom of the league in rushing yards allowed per game (130 on average, 30th in the NFL) and in rushing scores allowed (5, tied for 2nd most in the NFL). The Saint's defensive front is not getting the job done

Two struggling units face off in this matchup. We're having a hard time getting excited about the Packers running game, but this matchup is definitely favorable for Green Bay.

Weather: Lambeau Field expects a high of 55F with a low of 34F and a 20% chance of precipitation. It should be a nice, cool afternoon to play some football.

GB Injuries: RB Ahman Green (Questionable), WR Terrence Murphy (Out), TE Bubba Franks (Questionable)
NO Injuries: LB James Allen (Questionable), LB T.J. Slaughter (Questionable), DB Fakhir Brown (Questionable), DB Mel Mitchell (Questionable)


New Orleans Saints Rushing Offense at Green Bay Packers Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

The Saints abused the Bills' defense last week, racking up 41/167/1 as a team (27/130/0 for Deuce McAllister) on the ground. McAllister is the 13th ranked fantasy RB in the land after 4 games, with 82/304/3 rushing and 14/84/0 receiving to his credit - he's a solid #2 or a marginal #1 RB for most fantasy squads at the 1/4 point of the season. As a team, New Orleans ranks 13th in the NFL averaging 113.5 rushing yards per contest.

Green Bay fields a middle-of-the-road rush D this year, ranking 16th in the league allowing an average of 102 rushing yards per contest, with 2 rushing scores given up to date. They gave up both scores on Monday Night Football to Carolina, who posted 33/90/2 on the night. Carolina didn't dominate the Packers, but they found some holes to run through at the goal line last week.

The Saints have an upper-echelon running back in McAllister and a fine rushing QB in Aaron Brooks, while the Packers are merely average at defending the run. Advantage, Saints.

Weather: Lambeau Field expects a high of 55F with a low of 34F and a 20% chance of precipitation. It should be a nice, cool afternoon to play some football.

NO Injuries: RB Aaron Stecker (Questionable), WR Az-zahir Hakim (Questionable), WR Joe Horn (Questionable), TE Shad Meier (Questionable)
GB Injuries: DL Aaron Kampman (Probable), LB Nail Diggs (Out), DB Al Harris (Probable), DB Earl Little (Questionable)


Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Offense at Dallas Cowboys Rushing Defense (Good Matchup)

Philadelphia enters this game ranking 24th in the NFL averaging 75.5 rushing yards per game, with a 3.8 yards per carry average. However, remember that Brian Westbrook is a dual-threat back with a big role in the passing game (31 targets for 22/268/3 this season) - the Eagles call just enough rushing plays to keep opposing defenses guessing on any given series. Last week, that meant 9/15/0 rushing and 6/33/0 receiving for Westbrook - he had an off game. This season he ranks as the 4th best fantasy RB with 49/219/1 rushing and 22/268/3 receiving to his credit.

Dallas is 24th in the NFL allowing an average of 115 rushing yards per game, with 2 rushing scores surrendered over 4 games. Oakland hit them for 30/129/1 last week - the Cowboys just aren't a feared run defense this year.

An under-utilized rushing attack coming off a bad game faces a below-average defense in this one - with home-field advantage backing up the Cowboys, we still see this as a good matchup for Philadelphia.

Weather: The forecast for Texas Stadium calls for a high of 78F with a low of 53F and a 20% chance or rain. It should be a great day to play a football game.

PHI Injuries: QB Donovan McNabb (Probable), WR Terrell Owens (Probable)
DAL Injuries: none


Dallas Cowboys Rushing Offense vs Philadelphia Eagles Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Dallas' rushing offense comes into this game ranking 17th in the land, averaging 102.5 yards per game with 4 scores on the ground to date. They are ranked 25th in the NFL averaging 3.3 yards per carry so far - the offensive line isn't opening enough holes for Julius Jones and company to exploit. For the season, Jones ranks 11th among fantasy RBs with 96/335/3 rushing and 12/82/0 receiving - if his OL would give him more room, he'd be in the top 10 for sure. Last week Jones managed 22/76/0 rushing and 1/12/0 receiving vs. Oakland.

Philadelphia's rush D is mediocre at the 1/4 point this season, averaging 105.8 yards allowed per game with 3 rushing scores surrendered in 4 games. Kansas City hit them up for 27/144/1 last week (a 5.3 yards per carry average) - the Eagles aren't a dominant rush defense this year.

Two mediocre units clash in this contest - neither rival has a clear edge over the other.

Weather: The forecast for Texas Stadium calls for a high of 78F with a low of 53F and a 20% chance or rain. It should be a great day to play a football game.

DAL Injuries: none
PHI Injuries: DL Mike Patterson (Probable), DL Hollis Thomas (Probable), DL Trent Cole (Questionable), DL Darwin Walker (Doubtful), LB Jeremiah Trotter (Questionable), DB Sean Considine (Probable), DB Roderick Hood (Probable), DB Brian Dawkins (Questionable)


Houston Texans Rushing Offense vs Tennessee Titans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

19/81/0 rushing and 4/31/0 receiving were Domanick Davis' numbers last week - he remains the only viable fantasy start on this offensive unit. With 48/188/0 rushing and 10/73/1 receiving over 3 games, Davis is the 19th ranked fantasy RB in the NFL. Houston averages 4.7 yards per carry to date (4th in the NFL) - you can't lay the blame for their offensive struggles on Davis or the offensive line's run blocking.

The Titans deploy a mediocre rush defense this season, ranking 18th in the NFL allowing 105.2 rushing yards per game with 2 scores given up to date. Last week, they held Edgerrin James scoreless (21/90/0) and the Colts managed a fairly modest 26/100/0 as a team. Tennessee doesn't shut down the opposing RBs this year, but they don't lay down for them, either. They are average at defending the run so far during 2005.

Davis is a good back on a bad team, while the Titans are strictly average at defending the run. That sounds pretty even to us.

Weather: The forecast for Reliant Stadium calls for a high of 82F with a low of 56F and a 20% chance for precipitation. Both teams will need to stay well-hydrated if the temperatures are near the high at kickoff, or cramping could become an issue.

HOU Injuries: TE Matt Murphy (Probable)
TEN Injuries: DL Albert Haynesworth (Questionable), DL Travis Laboy (Questionable), DB Vincent Fuller (Out)


Jacksonville Jaguars Rushing Offense vs Cincinnati Bengals Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Jaguars' backs and offensive line were totally ineffective vs. Denver last week, combining for an embarrassing 11/12/0 on the ground. Taylor averaged 1.8 yards on his 8/14/0 during the game. The Jaguars' rushing game collapsed last week. As a team, the Jags average 99.5 rushing yards per game (18th in the NFL), and have just 1 rushing score so far during 2005. They need to refocus and get over last week's drubbing if Taylor is to return to productivity.

The Bengals are 15th in the NFL to date, averaging 101 rushing yards allowed per game (with 2 rushing scores surrendered so far). Domanick Davis and company threw down 23/126/0 against the Bengals last week - Cincinnati isn't shutting down opposing backs, but they make things tough around the goal line.

Two mediocre units meet in this matchup - don't expect a lot of TDs out of Taylor and company, and you won't be disappointed.

Weather: Alltel Stadium should see temperatures ranging from a high of 84F to a low of 72F on Sunday, with a 60% chance of rain. If the rain falls heavily at game time, footing and ball-handling could be issues for both teams.

JAX Injuries: RB Derrick Wimbush (Probable), WR Cortez Hankton (Probable)
CIN Injuries: DB Madieu Williams (Questionable)


Seattle Seahawks Rushing Offense at St. Louis Rams Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

Seattle ranks 3rd in the NFL this season averaging 4.8 yards per carry, they are 7th in the league in average rushing yards per game (135.5), and they are tied for 2nd most rushing scores this season with 6 TDs. It's fair to say the Seahawks have got it going on the ground. Shaun Alexander is the 2nd best fantasy RB so far this year, with 84/455/6 rushing and 3/15/0 receiving, with 20/98/1 rushing and 1/4/0 receiving vs. a tough Washington D last week - start him if you've got him.

St. Louis is fairly hard-nosed in this department, ranking 8th in the NFL allowing an average of only 91.8 rushing yards per game (2 rushing scores given up). They got blown apart by the Giants' stable last week, though, when Tiki Barber and company racked up 29/164/1 during the 44-24 shellacking of the Rams. It was a tough day for the Rams' defense all the way around.

Seattle has an elite RB in Shaun Alexander, and they bring a polished and balanced offense to bear. The Rams were knocked back on their heels last week, but have been strong run defenders more often than not. With home field advantage at the defense's back, we see this as a neutral matchup.

Weather: This game is to be played in the Edward Jones Dome - weather won't be a factor.

SEA Injuries: WR Bobby Engram (Doubtful), WR Darrell Jackson (Doubtful)
STL Injuries: LB Dexter Coakley (Probable), DB Chris Johnson (Probable)


Tennessee Titans Rushing Offense at Houston Texans Rushing Defense (Neutral Matchup)

The Titans rank 20th in the NFL at the 1/4 mark, averaging 97.5 rushing yards per game with 0 rushing scores to date. Chris Brown ranks behind Arizona's Marcel Shipp in fantasy points per game, with 49/210/0 rushing and 7/47/0 receiving to date - there hasn't been a lot of fantasy points generated by the Titans' rushing attack to date. 10/31/0 rushing and 2/17/0 were what Brown scraped together last week vs. Indianapolis. The team averages 4.1 yards per cary as a team - the offensive line is doing their part.

Houston's rush defense ranks 27th in the NFL allowing an average of 128.3 yards per game, but they have only surrendered 1 rushing score to date. Last week, Rudi Johnson and company posted 25/98/0 against the Texans (the Bengals lost their starting and backup centers during the game, though). Houston doesn't dominate their opponents' RB stables, but neither do they fall down and play dead in the red-zone.

The Titans' mediocre attack clashes with a mediocre defense in the defense's house this week - neither team appears to have an edge over the other in this phase of the game.

Weather: The forecast for Reliant Stadium calls for a high of 82F with a low of 56F and a 20% chance for precipitation. Both teams will need to stay well-hydrated if the temperatures are near the high at kickoff, or cramping could become an issue.

TEN Injuries: WR Drew Bennett (Questionable), WR Courtney Roby (Questionable), TE Erron Kinney (Questionable), TE Ben Troupe (Questionable)
HOU Injuries: DL Gary Walker (Out), LB Jason Babin (Out), DB Phillip Buchanon (Probable)


Arizona Cardinals Rushing Offense vs Carolina Panthers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

What rush attack? The Cardinals are 25th in the league in yards per carry (3.3 on average); 25th in the league averaging 75 rushing yards per game; dead last in the league with 0 rushing scores. Marcel Shipp is their "best" fantasy RB, ranking 34th at his position with 45/147/0 rushing in 4 games (14/112/0 receiving). Unless you are being slammed by injuries or bye-weeks, we'd look closely at your other options before starting a Cardinal back right now.

The Panthers deploy a stout defensive front that ranks 6th in the NFL after 4 games, averaging 85.5 rushing yards allowed per game, with 3 scores surrendered. Last Monday, they stymied Ahman Green and company to the tune of 19/58/0. It's not easy to rush the ball against the Panthers.

One of the league's worst rushing attacks meets one of the best rush defenses around - advantage Carolina.

Weather: The weatherman says that Sun Devil Stadium will see a high of 96F with a low of 71F and a 30% chance of rain. As this stadium does double-duty (Sun Devils' and Cardinals' home stadium), the turf is more worn than is usual in other venues - if the rain comes down heavily during the game, footing and ball-handling could be issues for both teams.

ARI Injuries: QB Kurt Warner (Out), RB Harold Morrow (Probable), RB James Jackson (Questionable), WR Reggie Swinton (Probable), TE Teyo Johnson (Probable)
CAR Injuries: DL Kindal Moorehead (Questionable), DL Kemp Rasmussen (Questionable), LB Adam Seward (Questionable), DB Mike Minter (Probable), DB Chris Gamble (Questionable)


Baltimore Ravens Rushing Offense at Detroit Lions Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

There is speculation this week in the Baltimore press that Lewis lagging production is due to frustration over his contract(read Mike Preston's editorial in the Baltimore Sun here: http://www.baltimoresun.com/sports/bal-sp.preston04oct04,1,7420569.column?coll=bal-pe-sports), suggesting that he isn't coming into games with 100% intensity. After the game vs. the Jets, coach Billick said "He left some yards on the field, and he knows that. He saw that he was anxious and rushed a little bit. The latter part of the game he slowed himself down, so I think both physically and from a rhythm standpoint we can be very optimistic that he's up and running. Physically, he looks fine." If Lewis is not playing 100% (at least in part)due to his contract squabble with the Ravens, it would help to explain his lack-luster start.

Anyway, the Ravens are in embarrassing territory for a run-oriented team: they rank 32nd in the NFL averaging 2.6 yards per carry this season, and are 29th in the NFL averaging 68.7 rushing yards per game (with a measly 1 TD to date). The offensive line is not getting the job done, the backs are not getting the job done - this is a squad in a deep hole entering the 2nd quarter of the season. Lewis did show some signs of coming around vs. the woeful Jets last week, with 29/81/1, landing him 15th among all fantasy backs last week - but his fantasy owners are hardly jumping for joy considering his season numbers of 55/138/1 rushing and 5/36/0 receiving (29th in the NFL in fantasy points per game at his position).

Detroit's rush defense put the clamps on Tampa Bay's stable last week, allowing only 22/69/0 during the game. they are 14th in the NFL averaging 100.7 rushing yards given up per game, with only 2 scores surrendered so far. Detroit's defensive front is playing pretty tough rush defense to open 2005.

The Ravens field a bottom-feeding RB stable this year, while Detroit is playing stoutly. At Ford Field, we think the Lions have the edge over Baltimore.

Weather: This game will be played at Ford Field - inside the dome, weather won't be a factor.

BAL Injuries: QB Kyle Boller (Out), RB Alan Ricard (Questionable), TE Todd Heap (Probable)
DET Injuries: DL Cory Redding (Probable), DL James Hall (Questionable), LB Alex Lewis (Questionable), DB Andre' Goodman (Questionable), DB Keith Smith (Questionable), DB Vernon Fox (Questionable)


New England Patriots Rushing Offense at Atlanta Falcons Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Patriots' rushing attack is in the doldrums. Kevin Faulk is out for several weeks due to a broken leg, and Corey Dillon has slowed down noticeably this year. The result is that the Patriots average 66.2 rushing yards per game (last in the NFL) and a mere 2.8 yards per rush (31st). They do have 5 rushing scores so far, which is the silver lining for the Patriots and Dillon owners (14/63/1 rushing with 1/23/0 receiving last week, 13th at his position.) Dillon ranks 10th among all fantasy RBs so far, with 73/223/5 rushing and 5/76/0 receiving.

Atlanta crushed the Vikings last week, allowing only 16/63/0 on the ground to the RB stable. They rank 22nd in the league so far, giving up an average of 112.2 yards per game in this phase, but have only surrendered 2 rushing scores to date. The Falcons are moving in the right direction after last week's strong showing.

The Patriots are struggling to run the ball, while the Falcons are improving at rush defense and will have home field advantage at their backs. Advantage, Atlanta.

Weather: Conditions inside the Georgia Dome's air conditioning should be perfect during the game.

NE Injuries: QB Tom Brady (Probable), RB Kevin Faulk (Out), WR Bethel Johnson (Questionable)
ATL Injuries: none


Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Offense at San Diego Chargers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Steelers had a hard time cranking up their rushing game vs. the Patriots back in week 3, totaling 23/79/0 as a team (17/55/0 rushing for Willie Parker) before their bye week. After 3 games, Parker is the 6th ranked fantasy RB in points per game, with 64/327/2 rushing and 2/42/0 receiving, so don't let one bad outing get you down - plus he'll be well rested for this contest after a bye week. He is still the starter, although he'll likely see his carries reduced with the return to health of Staley and Bettis. Bettis will likely garner some goal-line carries and Staley will see time as well. Pittsburgh ranks 5th in the NFL after 3 games, averaging 140 rushing yards per outing with 3 scores in 3 games. They are tied for 9th averaging 4.4 yards per carry, well above the 4.0 bench mark. More often than not, the Steelers have enjoyed solid success rushing the ball.

San Diego contained the Patriots last week, holding them to 18/73/1 on the ground. As the 4.1 yards-per-carry average demonstrates, they did not shut down the Patriots, though. The Chargers average 91.5 rushing yards allowed per game this season (7th in the NFL), with 3 scores surrendered to date. They are a solid but not overwhelming rush D.

Parker and company were slowed down by New England after a hot start, but come into this matchup well-rested and ready to go. San Diego is stout but not spectacular at defending opposing running backs, but they'll have home field advantage on Monday night - that sounds like a tough matchup to us.

Weather: The forecast for Qualcomm Stadium calls for a high of 79F with a low of 62F (this game is to be played Monday night, so temperatures will be nearer the low end of the spectrum), with a 20% chance for rain. The weather should be typical of beautiful Southern California on Monday night, meaning perfect conditions for a football game.

PIT Injuries: RB Duce Staley (Probable), RB Jerome Bettis (Probable), WR Sean Morey (Probable), WR Hines Ward (Questionable)
SD Injuries: LB Steve Foley (Questionable), DB Hanik Milligan (Questionable), DB Bhawoh Jue (Questionable)


San Diego Chargers Rushing Offense vs Pittsburgh Steelers Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

San Diego's LaDainian Tomlinson continued to power his fantasy owners' scoring last week, with 25/134/2 rushing and 3/34/0 receiving vs. New England. He's now the top ranked fantasy back in the land, with totals of: 1/1 for 26 yards, 1 TD and 0 interceptions passing; 84/450/8 TDs rushing and 9/62/0 receiving. San Diego ranks second in the NFL in rushing yards per game (158.2) and yards per carry (5.1) this season. They are really pounding the ball effectively after the first 1/4 of the season.

The Steelers yielded two rushing scores to New England during their most recent game (week 3), allowing 30/79/2 during the game. Those 2 scores were the only rushing scores given up by Pittsburgh to date - they average 96.7 rushing yards allowed per game (11th in the NFL). The Steelers are hard-nosed in this department, and not very easy to score on most of the time.

Tomlinson has a lot of momentum and home-field advantage on his side, while the well-rested Steelers will field an upper-echelon rush defense to oppose Tomlinson. You cannot sit LaDainian Tomlinson but understand this is not an easy matchup.

Weather: The forecast for Qualcomm Stadium calls for a high of 79F with a low of 62F (this game is to be played Monday night, so temperatures will be nearer the low end of the spectrum), with a 20% chance for rain. The weather should be typical of beautiful Southern California on Monday night, meaning perfect conditions for a football game.

SD Injuries: RB Darren Sproles (Questionable), TE Ryan Krause (Questionable)
PIT Injuries: LB James Farrior (Probable), LB Joey Porter (Questionable), LB Clark Haggans (Out), DB Deshea Townsend (Probable), DB Ricardo Colclough (Probable), DB Ike Taylor (Questionable)


St. Louis Rams Rushing Offense vs Seattle Seahawks Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

The Rams' backs rank 21st in the NFL as a group averaging 85 rushing yards per game, with 2 rushing scores to date. Last week, the ground game was largely ignored as the Rams rushed the ball 15 times (15/42/1) and threw it 62 times - there just wasn't much opportunity for the backs to make things happen running the ball. In this environment, Steven Jackson was still the 7th best fantasy RB last week with 10/17/1 rushing and 5/42/1 receiving - he made the most of his goal-line opportunities. He's 16th among all fantasy RBs after 4 games with 59/218/2 rushing and 11/77/1 receiving (Marshall Faulk is 37th with 15/93/0 rushing and 9/67/1 receiving in the mentor/supporting role).

Coach Martz is believed to be battling a heart infection (endocarditis) that has caused extreme fatigue over the last few weeks. He will not run practices this week - no word on whether he will coach on Sunday, just yet.

The Seahawks rush defense has been generous with the yardage this year (ranking 25th in the NFL allowing 116.2 per contest on average), but they stiffen in the red-zone, giving up only 1 TD over their first 4 games. The Redskins fit into this pattern last week, grinding out 39/141/0 (a 3.6 yards per carry average) against the Seahawks. Don't look for a lot of rushing scores out of Steven Jackson this week, and you won't be disappointed.

The Rams' coaching staff under-utilizes their ground game, while the Seahawks are easy with yards but stingy with TDs. That adds up to a neutral matchup in our eyes.

Weather: This game is to be played in the Edward Jones Dome - weather won't be a factor.

STL Injuries: WR Isaac Bruce (Doubtful), TE Brandon Manumaleuna (Questionable)
SEA Injuries: none


Washington Redskins Rushing Offense at Denver Broncos Rushing Defense (Tough Matchup)

Another season, the same old story - Clinton Portis is running wild between the 20's, but has yet to hit paydirt this season. Washington just isn't punching in scores when they are in the red-zone. He has 63/263/0 rushing and 6/43/0 receiving under his belt so far during 2005 (21st fantasy RB overall), with a 25/90/0 rushing and 2/18/0 receiving performance last week vs. Seattle.

Washington ranks 6th in the league with an average of 136.3 rushing yards per game as a team, but has yet to see any player score a rushing TD.

Denver ranks 4th in the NFL allowing 79 rushing yards per contest (3 TDs given up). Last week they absolutely humiliated the Jaguars' stable, holding them to a miniscule 11/12/0 rushing - this group is really jelling as the season moves along.

At Mile High, it won't be easy for Portis to slap down a big game - advantage, Denver.

Weather: Mile High Stadium expects a high of 75F with a low of 49F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday. That sounds like ideal football weather to us.

WAS Injuries: none
DEN Injuries: LB Louis Green (Questionable), LB Patrick Chukwurah (Questionable), DB Nick Ferguson (Probable), DB Darrent Williams (Probable), DB Champ Bailey (Questionable), DB Roc Alexander (Questionable)


Buffalo Bills Rushing Offense vs Miami Dolphins Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Buffalo's rush offense ranks 9th in the NFL with an average of 128 yards per game (2 rushing scores to date) and they are 5th in the league averaging 4.6 yards per carry. Willis McGahee is 15th at his position with 78/375/2 rushing and 5/31/0 receiving to date, including 16/84/1 rushing and 2/17/0 receiving last week vs. New Orleans. The team ranks 5th in the NFL averaging 4.6 yards per carry despite an ineffective passing attack that is weighing down the offense as a whole. OT Mike Williams was able to practice on Wednesday despite his left ankle injury - hopefully he'll be in the lineup to block for McGahee come Sunday.

Miami limited the Panthers to 23/61/0 before they went on bye - a solid performance against a quality rushing attack. So far they rank 3rd in the league vs. the rush, giving up a mere 76.3 yards per game on average. Nobody has crossed the goal-line on the ground vs. the defensive front to date. The Dolphins are very tough vs opposing backs.

McGahee is a very good running back, but he's somewhat limited by an anemic pass offense that allows teams to load up against the run. Miami sports one of the best rush defenses in the league - this one looks like a very tough matchup for McGahee.

Weather: The forecast for Ralph Wilson Stadium calls for a high of 56F with a low of 39F and a 30% chance for rain. If the precipitation falls heavily during the game, footing and ball-handling could become issues for both teams.

BUF Injuries: WR Roscoe Parrish (Doubtful), TE Tim Euhus (Questionable)
MIA Injuries: LB Junior Seau (Questionable)


Cleveland Browns Rushing Offense vs Chicago Bears Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Cleveland's rush attack has not been impressive to date - they have yet to score a rushing TD, and average only 75 rushing yards per game so far. Reuben Droughns is the 25th ranked fantasy RB in points per game after 3 contests, with 54/204/0 rushing and 10/83/0 receiving - the lack of scoring opportunities is depressing his fantasy value so far.

It is not easy to run the ball against the Bears' defensive front - they rank 9th in the NFL in yards allowed (92 per game), but are tied for 1st in the NFL with 0 rushing scores given up over 3 games. Rudi Johnson and company could only muster 34/83/0 against the Bears in week 3 - they are stubborn run defenders this year.

One of the top defensive fronts in the NFL faces off against one of the weaker attacks around in this matchup - advantage, Chicago.

Weather: Cleveland Browns Stadium expects a high of 56F with a low of 45F and a 30% chance for rain. If there is a lot of rain around or during game-time, footing and ball-handling could be issues for both teams.

CLE Injuries: WR Josh Cribbs (Questionable)
CHI Injuries: LB Joe Odom (Out), DB Mike Brown (Probable), DB Jerry Azumah (Probable)


Denver Broncos Rushing Offense vs Washington Redskins Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Mike Anderson has recovered from his rib injury quite well (62/267/1 rushing with 6/68/0 receiving this year, 22nd fantasy RB in points per game), and is the featured back on this top-ten rushing attack. The team managed 44/188/0 vs. Jacksonville last week, with Anderson (33/115/0) and backup Tatum Bell (15/60/0) leading the way - it looks like Anderson has locked down the top job, but that Bell will get some action when Anderson needs a rest. Ron Dayne is rapidly becoming an after-thought (2/3/0 last week).

The Broncos as a team rank 3rd in the NFL averaging 144.2 rushing yards per game (only 3 rushing scores so far, though). They are 6th in the NFL averaging 4.5 yards per carry - the offensive line is getting the job done up front.

Washington allowed 23/119/1 to the Seahawks last week in their narrow victory over Seattle. They are usually much tougher against the opposing running backs, averaging 83.3 rushing yards allowed per game (5th in the NFL), with 2 rushing scores surrendered over 4 games. It's tough to find much running room when the Redskins are in town.

Two top squads lock horns in this game - we like Denver but this will be a tough matchup.

Weather: Mile High Stadium expects a high of 75F with a low of 49F and a 20% chance of rain on Sunday. That sounds like ideal football weather to us.

DEN Injuries: WR Charlie Adams (Probable), WR Nate Jackson (Probable), TE Stephen Alexander (Probable)
WAS Injuries: LB Chris Clemons (Probable), DB Pierson Prioleau (Probable), DB Sean Taylor (Probable), DB Walt Harris (Questionable)


Detroit Lions Rushing Offense vs Baltimore Ravens Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

Kevin Jones didn't impress anybody with his overall numbers last week - 12/38/1 - but he did manage to score before being knocked out of the game due to getting his left eye poked. Although details about his playing time are murky, some say he was fine and the team wanted to see Artose Pinner work. As a team, the Lions managed 25/91/1 during the game. This season, they are the 29th ranked rushing attack in terms of yards per carry (3.0), and are 26th in the league in yards per game (74) - last week's rushing TD was the first of the year.

The Jets couldn't get anything going against the Ravens, eking out 12/28/0 as a team on a day they were forced to play their #3 QB. Baltimore is 2nd in the NFL averaging 70.3 rushing yards allowed per game, and have yet to give up a TD. The Ravens field a top-tier rush defense, folks. However, they have lost starting DE Anthony Weaver for a few weeks due to a turf toe injury, which means the defensive front is down a starter coming into this game.

The Lions have struggled to ignite their rushing attack so far during 2005, and it won't be easy to get it going this week against Baltimore.

Weather: This game will be played at Ford Field - inside the dome, weather won't be a factor.

DET Injuries: QB Jeff Garcia (Out), RB Cory Schlesinger (Doubtful)
BAL Injuries: DL Anthony Weaver (Out)


New York Jets Rushing Offense vs Tampa Bay Buccaneers Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

The Jets' Curtis Martin ranks 32nd among fantasy backs, with 82/226/0 rushing and 10/45/0 receiving to date. There just isn't much room for him to maneuver right now (see below) and as a result he eked out a mere 13/30/0 rushing and 3/15/0 receiving vs Baltimore last week.

The Jets' OL ranks 30th in the league averaging 2.8 rushing yards per carry, and 29th in the league averaging 68 rushing yards per game. They are really struggling to rush the ball right now.

Tampa Bay is coming to town. Tampa ranks 1st in the NFL allowing 61.5 rushing yards per game, with 1 score allowed in 4 games. They limited the Lions to 25/91/1 last week - it is tough to move the ball on the Bucs whether you rush or pass the ball.

The Jets' rush attack has been awful, while the Bucs field an elite rush D - advantage, Tampa.

Weather: The forecast for Giants' stadium calls for a high of 61F with a low of 48F and a 60% chance for rain. If the precipitation falls heavily during the game, footing and ball-handling will likely become issues for both teams (this field sees double duty as the home field of both New York teams - the turf is more worn than other NFL stadiums as a result).

NYJ Injuries: QB Chad Pennington (Out), QB Jay Fiedler (Out), RB Curtis Martin (Probable), RB B.J. Askew (Doubtful), WR Justin McCareins (Probable)
TB Injuries: DL Ellis Wyms (Probable), DB Dexter Jackson (Probable), DB Jermaine Phillips (Questionable)


San Francisco 49ers Rushing Offense vs Indianapolis Colts Rushing Defense (Bad Matchup)

San Francisco couldn't get it going against the Cardinal's 21st ranked rush D last week (14/51/0). Neither Frank Gore (17/78/0 rushing and 5/14/0 receiving to date, 54th at his position) or Kevan Barlow (46/166/1 rushing with 12/86/0 receiving so far, 28th among fantasy RBs in points per game) is worthy of a start for your fantasy team. Worse yet, this week they will have a rookie QB under center against one of the league's emerging defensive squads. There will be little room to roam for either of these guys as Indianapolis isn't going to be afraid of a rookie QB in his first start - expect them to load the box with 8-9 guys and dare Smith to survive constant blitzing.

Indianapolis ranks 12th in the NFL allowing an average of 97.2 rushing yards per game, and has yet to give up a rushing TD this season. Tennessee managed 19/109/0 against them on Sunday, but much of that came late in the game when the Colts were playing "prevent" defense. The Colts field a strong defensive front.

San Francisco stinks in this phase of the game (23rd in the league averaging 3.5 yards per carry, 31st in the league averaging 66.8 rushing yards per game), while Indianapolis is top-tier. Advantage, Colts.

Weather: The forecast for Monster calls for a high of 67F and a low of 56F with a 20% chance of rain. It should be a great day to play a game of football.

SF Injuries: WR Arnaz Battle (Questionable)
IND Injuries: DL Josh Thomas (Probable), DL Vincent Burns (Questionable), LB David Thornton (Probable), LB Gilbert Gardner (Out), DB Gerome Sapp (Probable), DB Joseph Jefferson (Doubtful)




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