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Week 5 fantasy matchups


Defenses are starting to adjust to the offenses. For the season, teams have scored 2,622 points, or 42.2 per game. The average has actually dropped a little from Week 3 to Week 4. Can defenses continue this trend or will the offenses start making adjustments?

Teams are still passing more -- about 55 percent of the time. And QBs are completing a higher percentage of passes. In 2006, Tom Brady completed 61.8 percent of his passes. He's at 79.2 percent this year. Of course, that's off the charts and impossible to keep up. But he's not the only one doing better.

Joey Harrington, a 57.5 percent passer last year, is at 71.2 percent.

Injuries, of course remain a key concern for NFL teams and fantasy owners alike. Wait as long as possible to set your lineup. In the meantime, here's a look at key fantasy matchups for Week 5:

Dolphins at Texans

The only play for Miami is RB Ronnie Brown, and here's some perspective on his resurgence. He's had more than 200 yards from scrimmage in two consecutive games -- the only player to do it in three straight is the great Walter Payton. What makes Brown's hot streak even more unbelievable is that Miami has a time of possession of less than 27 minutes per game. The Texans are sixth in run defense, but I still think Brown will do well here. Consider this: Head coach Cam Cameron has essentially installed the Chargers offense -- and Brown is at least getting the chance to do his best LT impersonation. So far it's working.

The Texans, meanwhile, run the same offensive scheme as the Raiders, and Oakland shredded Miami on the ground last week. So I like RBs Ahman Green and Ron Dayne here -- check Green's injury status, though. I like QB Matt Schaub to have a big day. If WR Andre Johnson plays, he'll do well, but check the injury reports. If he's out, look for Andre Davis to get his share of yards. Miami is 32nd versus the run.

Jaguars at Chiefs

These two teams are very similar -- they like to run, but are not very good throwing. I do like QB David Garrard a little, though. I like both RBs. Fred Taylor has gotten 54 percent of the team's carries through the first three games, but Maurice Jones-Drew might have other opportunities to score in the return game. Keep an eye on second-year TE Marcedes Lewis, who ould be an emerging player ready to break out.

You have to play Chiefs RB Larry Johnson, of course, even though it's tough to run on Jacksonville. You also have to start playing rookie WR Dwayne Bowe, who has had two very good weeks in a row. Last year, the Jaguars ranked fourth in fewest points allowed (17.1), but they gave up 23.2 per game on the road -- allowing more than 21 points in six of eight road games.

Browns at Patriots

We speculated earlier in the week that New England's defense would focus on taking QB Derek Anderson out of the game. Now I believe the focus will be more on WR Braylon Edwards. I do like RB Jamal Lewis a little here, along with TE Kellen Winslow. I'm not sure Anderson will do much, but I do think it will be a tough game for Edwards.

Against Cleveland's defense, I think you can expect a little something from all of the Patriots' offensive stars -- QB Tom Brady and WR Randy Moss tops, of course. But, especially if RB Laurence Maroney is still hurt, you can definitely play Sammy Morris. Wes Welker should be productive as well.

Panthers at Saints

I don't think WR Steve Smith will have a big game here without Jake Delhomme at QB, and you can't expect much from David Carr. However, RB DeShaun Foster is a good play - he's had a few god weeks in a row, and is facing a susceptible Saints defense.

For New Orleans, I think QB Drew Brees and WRs Marques Colston and Devery Henderson will make things happen in this game. The Saints need to draw up some special plays for RB Reggie Bush. He'll obviously get more opportunities now that Deuce McAllister is out, but in three games so far, Bush has just 150 total yards - 80 running and 70 receiving.

Jets at Giants

For the Jets, I like RB Thomas Jones and WR Laveranues Coles. They'll have a tough time blocking the Giants' front. Osi Umenyiora versus D'Brickashaw Ferguson won't be the mismatch that Philadelphia had last week, but Ferguson will struggle a little.

For the Giants, even though RB Brandon Jacobs says he'll be back, I like Derrick Ward here. QB Eli Manning, WR Plaxico Burress and TE Jeremy Shockey should all do well agasint a Jets defense that ranks 28th overall.

Seahawks at Steelers

It will be very hard for Seattle to run on Pittsburgh, which allows 81 rushing yards per game. RB Shaun Alexander had 95 yards against the Steelers in Super Bowl XL, but that was pretty good. QB Matt Hasselbeck is playing well, and he's spreading the ball around between WRs Deion Branch, Bobby Engam and even Nate Burleson.

For the Steelers, I like RB Willie Parker, QB Ben Roethlisberger, and WR Santonio Holmes, in that order. It's unlikely WR Hines Ward will play, making Holmes even more attractive.

Cardinals at Rams

I anticipate Arizona will want to establish the run against St. Louis, so I like RB Edgerrin James here. It's hard to like one of the Cards QBs while they continue to rotate, and WR Anquan Boldin is out, but I still like WR Larry Fitzgerald.

I think the only play for the Rams is RB Steven Jackson - but that's only if he's healthy enough to play. Gus Frerotte steps in at QB and his top target, WR Torry Holt, is not making big plays - his longest gain this year is 20 yards.

Falcons at Titans

Don't look now, but Joey Harrington has 4 TDs, 0 INTs and a 115.3 in his last two games. I think he and WR Roddy White can make some plays here. I still like RB Jerious Norwood ahead of Warrick Dunn. Norwood matches up well against the Titans defense.

For Tennessee, I like RB LenDale White over Chris Brown. There getting a similar total of carries, but White has 2 TDs and Brown has none.

Lions at Redskins

Detroit will move the ball through the air, so you have to like QB Jon Kitna and WRs Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey are okay if your league awards points for receptions, but they won't make much of a difference in yards. Detroit continues to pass the ball eight more times per game than they run.

For Washington, I like RB Clinton Portis -- I think Ladell Betts will play, but Portis is getting the bulk of the carries so far. WRs Santana Moss and Antwaan Randle El could both post good numbers against a Lions defense that ranks 30th against the pass, allowing 293 yards per game and 8 TD passes overall. That said, QB Jason Campbell can be a little inconsistent.

Buccaneers at Colts

With Cadillac Williams out, I like RB Michael Pittman in this game. He'll get a majority of the carries over Earnest Graham. That said, Pittman has only 1 rushing TD in the last 20 games (Graham has three this season alone). QB Jeff Garcia will continue to make plays with his arm and feet.

Along with QB Peyton Manning for the Colts, I like TE Dallas Clark a lot. You have to check the injury status for WR Marvin Harrison and RB Joseph Addai. WR Reggie Wayne is an automatic start, but I still think Clark will have a big game. We're not sure if backup RB Kenton Keith is a one-game wonder, but he did have 80 yards in relief of Addai last week.

Chargers at Broncos

In first four games this season, San Diego is averaging 17 points per game -- last year they averaged 30. This should be where they get a little healthy. I like LaDainian Tomlinson big. Denver allows 181 rushing yards per game. The Broncos are first in pass defense but 31st versus the run. QB Philip Rivers and TE Antonio Gates will get something done.

For Denver, the key play is WR Brandon Marshall - an emerging talent who we like as a starter whether Javon Walker plays or not (we don't think he will be). Check the status of RB Travis Henry - though I've been assured he'll play. I like QB Jay Cutler a little.

Ravens at 49ers

I like RB Willis McGahee here, though you have to consider that he's yet to score a rushing TD this season, and he has just six in his last 18 games. But San Francisco is 25th versus the run.

For San Francisco, I don't really like anyone. QB Trent Dilfer might have been rusty last week, but he looked pretty slow. RB Frank Gore should have a tough time running against Baltimore. Even though the Ravens struggled a bit last week, they still rank fourth versus the run.

Bears at Packers

Green Bay's run defense is good, but Adrian Peterson did run on them last week. That said, Bears RB Cedric Benson is averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. So Chicago will need to get some production from QB Brian Griese and WR Bernard Berrian - and I think they will. Somewhere along the line, the Bears need to get TE Greg Olsen into the mix. He might be worth taking a chance on one of these weeks.

As good as Brett Favre has played this season, his recent history in this matchup doesn't bode well. He's thrown 1 TD pass and 8 INTs in his last three home games versus the Bears. At WR, I like Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and James Jones, in that order. I don't think the Packers will throw 45 times like last week, but it will be close. That's because they average barely 50 yards rushing per game.

Cowboys at Bills

It's hard to say you shouldn't play any and all Dallas skill-position players here, considering that Buffalo ranks 32nd in total defense, 27th in run defense and 32nd against the pass. But history is against the Cowboys - they have had a lot of trouble scoring in their last two trips to Buffalo. And since this is Buffalo's first Monday night home game in 13 years, the crowd noise could be a factor. That said, QB Tony Romo, RB Marion Barber, WR Terrell Owens and TE Jason Witten are automatic starters.

I think you can pass on Dallas with CB Anthony Henry likely out. That means QB Trent Edwards - who was 0-7 at Stanford last year but is 1-0 in the NFL - could be productive. I'm not sure how much you'll get out of WR Lee Evans, who has done nothing this year, or RB Marshawn Lynch.