|Houston's Andre Johnson is the hottest WR in the NFL, but Minnesota CB Antoine Winfield will be ready for him.|
Here are some interesting matchups to watch in Week 9:
Houston WR Andre Johnson vs. Minnesota CB Antoine Winfield
Houston has won three straight games, and the Texans have scored 97 points in the process. Johnson has been a major part of that success -- he leads the NFL in receptions (56) and receiving yards (772). And since Minnesota's defense ranks second in the league against the run, along with the fact that Houston is not as good on the road as it is at home, it's clear the Texans need to maintain their success in the passing game here.
Johnson and QB Matt Schaub have formed an excellent passing combination, and Johnson certainly will have the size advantage when he lines up against the Vikings' best pass defender. Johnson is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds, and runs a 4.35 40; Winfield is 5-8 1/2, 180 pounds, and runs a 4.5.
Excellent speed gives Johnson the ability to separate, and to drive off cornerbacks. He is a very good deep-route threat on go routes and post routes. He is excellent at running slants -- however, because he catches the ball with his body, that slows him down a bit and he is not very elusive after the catch.
These teams have only met once before, and Johnson caught 10 passes for 170 yards and 2 TDs in that contest.
Winfield is the Vikings' best cover corner. He's small in stature but plays with very good quickness and has outstanding tackling ability. He doesn't back away from a challenge in man-to-man coverage and has the skills to make plays on the ball. He is good at anticipating the route, and can close with very little wasted motion. He can play in the slot and has the toughness to make tackles.
A bonus matchup to watch in this game will be fought in the trenches: Vikings LT Bryant McKinnie versus Texans DE Mario Williams. Williams has seven sacks this season and 21 in the past 23 games dating back to last season (only DeMarcus Ware of the Cowboys has more in that time).
Jets CB Darrelle Revis vs. Buffalo WR Lee Evans
Evans is averaging 20.5 yards per catch this season on 31 catches for 637 yards. In the past four games against the Jets, Evans has 408 yards and 2 TDs. The two touchdowns covered 85 and 77 yards. If you didn't know who he was, you'd think you were watching a young Torry Holt of the Rams. Evans is a football player with track speed. He can get down the field and put tremendous pressure on the defensive backs -- and he has very good hands. In his five-year career, Evans has only dropped 5 percent of the passes thrown his way. He's caught at least one pass in all but one game for his career, and no player in Bills history has more catches, yards and TDs over his first four seasons.
Revis is a second-year player who had three interceptions as a rookie in 2007 (including the first of his career against Buffalo) and already has three more this season. He has very good ball skills and plays cornerback with a linebacker's mentality. He led the Jets with 77 solo tackles last year. He's very athletic -- he was a high school quarterback as well as a first-team all-state basketball player. He's very competitive, and that has shown when he's matched up against the best receivers in football. In his short career, Revis has turned in good games covering the likes of Randy Moss and Terrell Owens.
Green Bay LT Chad Clifton vs. Tennessee DE Kyle Vanden Bosch
Green Bay will have a tough time running the ball in this game for two reasons. For starters, the Packers rank 23rd in rushing offense; secondly, Tennessee is very good stopping run (though Indianapolis had some success on Monday night, gaining 93 yards on 21 attempts).
Clifton returns to Tennessee, where he grew up and was a four-year starter for the University of Tennessee. A Pro Bowler in 2007, Clifton plays with very good technique. In three games last season against Jared Allen, Shawne Merriman and Osi Umenyiora, he allowed just half a sack. Clifton has very good athletic ability in pass protection and does a very good job in the Packers' zone blocking scheme.
Vanden Bosch plays in a right-handed stance and comes off the ball with intensity and quickness on every play. He plays until the whistle blows and does a good job of coming back to the play after running past the QB. Because of his lack of size, he can get caught up in the running game. He loves the "slap and edge" move, in which he'll slap at the offensive tackle's outside shoulder, to get outside. Vanden Bosch didn't play in the Titans' Monday night win over the Colts -- and it's no coincidence that DT Albert Haynesworth didn't have his best game. That shows how valuable Vanden Bosch is to the Titans' success.
Detroit WR Calvin Johnson vs. Chicago CB Charles Tillman
This is the 158th time these teams have played, dating back to Oct. 22, 1930, when they played on a Wednesday night before 7,500 fans. The Lions were known as the Portsmouth (Ohio) Spartans at the time. They have met at least once a year since the series began.
Calvin Johnson has rare size -- 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, and runs the 40 in the low 4.4s. He will go inside and make the tough catch with his hands. The second-year player, who is just 22 years old, seems to gain more confidence every game, and he makes big plays. He has caught 29 passes for 588 yards -- a 20.3-yard average -- and 5 TDs.
Tillman, who plays left cornerback for the Bears, also has good size -- 6-foot-1, 198 pounds, with 4.5 speed. He plays best when the Bears are in Cover 2 and he can jam the receiver at the line of scrimmage. He's a very good tackler and will support the run. In the last meeting between the Bears and Lions, Tillman had a 26-yard INT return for the Bears' only score of the game.
A bonus matchup to watch in this game is Chicago RB Matt Forte versus Detroit LB Ernie Sims. Forte is the Bears' leading rusher and receiver; Sims is Detroit's defensive playmaker and an explosive tackler.