Matchups to Watch  


McNabb-Cutler duel leads solid list of Week 11 matchups


Here's a look at all the key matchups to watch in Week 11:

Indianapolis DE Robert Mathis vs. Baltimore OT Michael Oher
It's Homecoming Weekend for the Colts, who played in Baltimore from 1953-83. Of course, many Baltimore fans are still angry about how the Colts left town under the cover of night. Indianapolis leads the series, 6-2, and has won the last five regular-season games vs. the Ravens.

Mathis is an explosive player, who puts up impressive numbers. He's got 8.5 sacks this year, giving him 62 in six-plus NFL seasons. He doesn't have great size (6-foot-1, 245), but he plays smart, has very good lateral quickness, excellent balance and the ability to change direction. He will chase plays down from behind, and he loves the quick spin move.

Oher was the only rookie selected to Peter King's midseason all-pro team. The subject of the new movie, "The Blind side," Oher has good feet and toughness, and long arms. He has started every game this season and played well. This will be a big test for Oher because of Mathis' speed and quickness.

1 p.m. ET, FOXWashington at Dallas
Washington S LaRon Landry vs. Dallas TE Jason Witten
Including the playoffs, this is the 99th meeting between these rivals. Dallas leads the regular-season series, 57-37. Redskins coach Jim Zorn signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent in 1975 and was traded to Seattle in 1976. No matter what the records are, this is always a big game for both teams.

Landry is a third-year player, who has started every game since entering the league, and was a Pro Bowl alternate in each of his first two seasons. He is the team's second-leading tackler, and is a smart player with very good anticipation and range. He lacks real good hands, though, and does not intercept many passes.

Witten didn't want to play tight end out of high school, and made colleges agree to play him at defensive end when he was being recruited. This changed in his first year at Tennessee. Witten has soft, sure hands, and rarely drops a pass. He is the Cowboys' leading receiver, and is on pace for 87 catches. The five-time Pro Bowler is also a good blocker. He lines up at multiple spots, either in the backfield or out wide.

1 p.m. ET, FOXCleveland at Detroit
Cleveland NT Shaun Rogers vs. Detroit RB Kevin Smith
In a battle of cities that are 150 miles apart, Detroit leads the series, 13-4. Both teams are struggling this year, though, and each has a new head coach and a young quarterback. Despite the struggles, both have great fan bases.

Rogers has excellent ability to guess the snap count, and he is a dominating lineman with outstanding quickness for his size. He can penetrate and be very disruptive. He is very powerful, but tires easily after 18-20 plays. He does not like to be cut blocked.

Smith, Detroit's leading rusher, is ascending young back with good instincts and patience running the ball. He will block in pass protection and does a good job as a receiver out of the backfield. He's a strong, hard runner.

1 p.m. ET, CBSBuffalo at Jacksonville
Buffalo LB Paul Posluszny vs. Jacksonville RB Maurice Jones-Drew
This is the fourth year in a row these teams meet. The Bills lead the series, 5-3, and have outscored Jacksonville by one point in the eight games. Jaguars QB David Garrard has played very well the last two games.

Posluszny is tough and instinctive. He's very athletic as evidenced by his 37-inch vertical jump at his pro day. Posluszny had 12 tackles last week in a losing effort vs. Tennessee. He plays all downs and is a smart player. The only thing that has slowed him has been injuries.

Jones-Drew made one of the plays of the year when he took a knee at the 1-yard line late in last week's win over the Jets. That allowed the Jaguars to run the clock down before they kicked the winning field goal as time expired. Jones-Drew is short, with 4.4 speed in the 40 and exceptional strength. He is having a superb season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry.

1 p.m. ET, FOXSeattle at Minnesota
Seattle CB Marcus Trufant vs. Minnesota WR Sidney Rice
Trufant missed much of the first half of this season with a back injury. This will be his fourth game of the season. He had seven tackles vs. Arizona last week from his left corner spot. Trufant is best in press coverage, but also has the speed to run with receivers. He reacts well to the ball in the air, is a good tackler and is very physical.

Rice, in his third NFL season, is on fire. He's got 44 catches for 786 yards. He had seven catches for 201 yards last week vs. Detroit. Rice is an outstanding athlete with long arms, big hands and sensational leaping ability. He was a bit immature coming into the league two years ago, but seems to have improved greatly in that area. He plays faster than his timed speed.

1 p.m. ET, FOXNew Orleans at Tampa Bay
New Orleans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams vs. Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman
New Orleans is playing a second straight road game and gets New England at home next Monday night. The saints lead the series, 20-14, and the last three games have been decided by a total of 11 points.

Gregg Williams is in his first year as defensive coordinator of the Saints, and his team already has more interceptions (17) than it had in all of 2008 (15), and it's on pace to finish with eight more sacks than last year. Williams loves to bring pressure, and Freeman will see a different look almost every time they blitz.

Freeman is making his third start, but his first against a team with a 4-3 defense. In two starts, he has thrown four TD passes and two interceptions. He has ideal size for the position, runs well and has good arm strength. He's better in the spread than he is operating under center. He has the tools to be a very good player in a few years.

1 p.m. ET, CBSAtlanta at N.Y. Giants
Atlanta QB Matt Ryan vs. N.Y. Giants QB Eli Manning
The Falcons lead the all-time series, 10-9, but the real bizarre history here is that the home team is 0-12 dating back to 1981. The Giants are 7-0 at Atlanta in that time, while the Falcons are 5-0 at Giants Stadium. This is a very important game for both teams. The Falcons will most likely be without RB Michael Turner.

Ryan is struggling a little in his second season, especially on the road. He already has 12 interceptions -- one more than he had all of last season. The Falcons have lost four of their five road games this season, and the winds at the Meadowlands this time of year can be tough on visiting quarterbacks. Ryan is very smart, however, and understands what teams are trying to do on defense. He can scramble and throw with accuracy, and has good leadership qualities.

Manning and the Giants have lost four consecutive games. No team that lost four straight in the regular season has ever won the Super Bowl. Manning has been hampered by a foot injury, but should be okay after last week's bye. He is poised, smart and aware of what people are trying to do on defense. He has taken the Giants to the playoffs every year he has been a full-time starter, and won a Super Bowl.

Pittsburgh NT Casey Hampton vs. Kansas City G Brian Waters
Pittsburgh has won 17 of its previous 25 games. Chiefs rookie coach Todd Haley has spent a lot of time around the Steelers in his lifetime. His father Dick played for the Black and Gold in the 1960s and then became their personnel director.

Hampton is a very deceptive athlete for his size and build. He has the ability to engage and lock out. He can cover both gaps and will flash the ability to get outside the numbers in pursuit. A four-time Pro Bowl player, Hampton is very, very strong.

Waters is a 10th-year player, who was a college tight end. He was so dominant in his prime that he is the only offensive lineman ever to be named AFC offensive player of the week. An undrafted free agent, who was discovered in NFL Europe, he has started 127 regular-season games and been named to four Pro Bowls, including last year's despite playing for the 2-14 Chiefs. Waters is strong, and is a good pass protector.

1 p.m. ET, FOX49ers at Packers
San Francisco RB Frank Gore vs. Green Bay LB A.J. Hawk
These teams met in the playoffs four years in a row from 1995-98. Overall, Green Bay leads the series, 28-25. Both teams have young quarterbacks that came into league together as first-round picks in 2005. Both teams are coming off big wins.

Gore worked very hard this past offseason to prepare, but he was injured on the first play in a Week 3 loss to the Vikings, and is just now getting back to where he was. The 49ers have lost both starting tackles the last three games, and Gore has rushed for 551 yards in seven games, with a 5.2-yard per carry average. Gore is well built with a very strong upper body. He has good instincts, a good burst and is a very good receiver. When he's 100 percent, he's a fine football player.

Hawk is playing inside this season in the Packers' new 3-4 defense, and he's second on the team in tackles. Hawk is very athletic, with good speed and quickness. He flows to the ball, and is playing better than he did last season.

4:05 p.m. ET, FOXArizona at St. Louis
Arizona LB Karlos Dansby vs. St. Louis RB Steven Jackson
The Cardinals left St. Louis after the 1987 season and moved to Arizona. These division rivals have played 60 times, with the Rams holding a two-game edge in the series. Arizona has won the last five games, averaging 37 points per game. Cards QB Kurt Warner threw his first-ever TD pass at age 28 as a Ram in 1999.

Dansby is the leading tackler on a team that gives up 20.4 points per game, and is ranked eighth against the run. Playing inside linebacker, he's on the field every down. He has the ability to cover in space, has good strength against the run and he competes hard on every play.

Jackson is the Rams' offense. In nine games, he has rushed for 915 yards and caught 33 passes for 231 yards. And he has done it with no help. The team has scored just 100 points in nine games. Jackson has speed, quickness and attitude. Arizona allows 101 yards per game against the run.

4:15 p.m. ET, CBSSan Diego at Denver
San Diego RB LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Denver LB D.J. Williams
Both teams are 6-3, but Denver holds the tiebreaker as a result of winning the first meeting. This is the 100th regular-season game between these teams. It's a very important game for both teams. The Broncos, who have lost three straight, could be without starting QB Kyle Orton.

Tomlinson had his best game of the season last week, running for 96 yards and two scores in a win over the Eagles. He's still a very good runner and receiver. He ran for 1,100 yards and caught 50 passes despite injuries in 2008. He still does a good job running draws and catching screens.

Williams is Denver's leading tackler with 73, and he also has 2.5 sacks. This is his first year in the 3-4 defense, playing inside. He has good athletic ability, and was a star running back in high school. He can play well in space. Williams was the first rookie in Denver history to lead the team in tackles, and he should have a lot of chances here, since San Diego loves to run against Denver.

4:15 p.m. ET, FOXN.Y. Jets at New England
N.Y. Jets CB Darrelle Revis vs. New England WR Randy Moss
The Patriots have two more wins than anyone in the AFC East, but they trail Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Denver for the two playoff byes. This will be the 101st meeting between these teams, with the Jets holding a slim three-game regular-season lead. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots play following that tough -- and much-hyped -- loss to the Colts. My guess is they will play exceptionally well.

Revis held Moss to four catches for 24 yards in Week 2, with a long of 9 yards. He is playing as well as any cornerback in the NFL. He plays with an attitude, and has impressive strength and athleticism. He is also a very good tackler. Receivers have a tough time getting separation against him. Revis most likely will play Moss all over the field. He has two interceptions and 12 breakups on the season, but teams don't throw his way often.

Moss is having a great year, with 58 catches, 891 yards and eight TDs. He's also blocking well in the running game. Moss is always an extremely tough matchup for cornerbacks. He works hard to get open, has very good hands and makes outstanding catches in traffic. He's a threat to go all the way on every catch.

Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET, CBSCincinnati at Oakland
Cincinnati QB Carson Palmer vs. Oakland P Shane Lechler
The Bengals have never won at Oakland (0-7 in the regular season and 0-1 in the playoffs). They are the surprise team in the NFL through nine games and the next three are against teams with four combined wins.

Palmer is having a very good year, mainly because the team is running well and playing defense, so he doesn't have to play from behind all the time. He has good arm strength, a quick release and he moves well to avoid the rush. When his receivers are covered, he is good at scrambling. Palmer was the fifth-fastest quarterback in history to get to 100 TD passes.

Lechler is the only real threat for Oakland. Teams don't get a short field with his punts. He has great hang time, and is averaging 51.4 yards per punt with 19 going inside the 20.

Philadelphia QB Donovan McNabb vs. Chicago QB Jay Cutler
These teams first played in 1933, yet they've only met 35 times overall in the regular season. The Bears have won 26 of those games.

McNabb, who threw for 450 yards last week on 35-of-55 passing, grew up in Chicago. He has 12 TD passes and just four INTs this season. The Eagles are not good running the ball, and pass more than 60 percent of the time. McNabb is very good at reading defenses and knows where to throw the ball. But the offensive line is not playing well.

Cutler is coming off a five-interception game at San Francisco. The Bears made the trade for Cutler hoping he would bring an NFC North title. He throws tight spirals, important in Chicago's windy conditions. But he must stop forcing the ball and cut down on the picks. He has every physical trait needed to be a top quarterback.

Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPNTennessee at Houston
Tennessee QB Vince Young vs. Houston QB Matt Schaub
Titans owner Bud Adams moved his Oilers to Nashville in 1997, but Adams still lives in Houston. The Texans need to win this game if they are to have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time ever.

Young was born and raised in Houston and was one of the best prep athletes in the city's history. He went on to be the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2006, and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2007. He was benched after one game in 2008, however. Now he has started and won three straight games this season, completing 65 percent of his passes with an 85.9 passer rating. Young has learned to slow down his play and it shows. He's still quick taking off, but is playing under control.

Schaub already has a career-high 17 TD passes this season, and is completing 67 percent of his passes. The Texans are in contention for a playoff spot because of his play. Schaub is very good at throwing the slant route. He has poise and outstanding leadership qualities. He makes excellent decisions. This team could easily be 7-2 right now. 



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