Matchups to Watch  

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Brackett's second shot at Foster top Week 8 matchup

Texans running back Arian Foster vs. Colts linebacker Gary Brackett

Monday, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Two teams fighting to win the AFC South, each with two losses. Houston has never won at Indianapolis in eight tries. The Texans will be playing with a new middle linebacker in Brian Cushing.

Foster rushed for a franchise record 231 yards when these teams met in Week 1. For Houston to be successful, it needs to control the clock and keep the defense off the field. Foster is the key to those efforts.

Foster plays faster than his timed speed, and has great vision and cut-back ability. He does a good job catching out of the backfield, as well. He is coming off a bye week and should be fresh on Monday night. He will probably have to rush for 100-plus yards for the Texans to win.


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Brackett has had injury problems early this season, but is coming off a bye and will play on all downs. He is responsible for getting everyone lined up properly. He has the speed to make plays in both the run and pass game. He has very good awareness in the Cover 2. He is best when he has free access and doesn't have to shed blocks. He is a very explosive tackler and has to limit Foster and backup Derrick Ward for the Colts to win.

Bonus matchup: Texans CB Kareem Jackson vs. Colts QB Peyton Manning

Manning loves to target rookie corners, and even though Jackson has a good future ahead of him, he is still figuring out the pro game and will get tested early and often.

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers vs. Jets CB Antonio Cromartie

Sunday, 1 p.m. ET, FOX

Green Bay has never won on the road against the Jets and has only two wins in 10 games between the teams. The Jets have a five-game winning streak that is the longest in the NFL this season. They are my No. 1 ranked team in our NFL.com rankings.

This is Rodgers' third year as a starter, but he's not playing as well as he did in 2009. After throwing just seven interceptions last year, he has thrown nine in seven games. One reason could be the losses of running back Ryan Grant and tight end Jermichael Finley.

Those injuries appear to have affected the Packers' passing game. Rodgers has excellent arm strength and is good at throwing on the run, with above-average accruacy. He is a smart player and makes good decisions and also has great tougheness. He was sacked a lot last year due to a poor offensive line, but he does have good mobility.

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He needs to stay away from Revis on Sunday, which means he will look to challenge Antonio Cromartie often.

Cromartie is at his best when he can get his hands on you and turn and run. He has long arms and excels at cutting off receivers. He is tough to throw the ball over due to his height, but he struggles against quickness and double moves. Look for the Packers to attack him with those routes.

Bonus matchup: Packers linebackers A.J. Hawk and Desmond Bishop vs. Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson

Tomlinson is having his best season in years, but Hawk and Bishop have the ability to prevent him from the long runs that have been his signature.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger vs. Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams

Sunday, 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC

This will be Ben Roethlisberger's third start of the season. He is a big-body player, who can make all the throws. He excels at improvising and making plays on the run. He has good intermediate and deep-ball accuracy and likes to throw back across the middle when outside the pocket.

Big Ben can feel the blitz and locate the hot receiver, but he makes mistakes under pressure and it affects his accuracy. Williams will try and force him into errant throws by bringing the heat. He is hard to bring down, however, and has been sacked just three times in two games.

Williams is an in-your-face style of defensive coordinator. His trademark is being very demanding and aggressive. He likes to blitz and has done so 49 percent of the time this season. That is the third-highest percentage in the league behind the Jets and Browns. He must be judicious when he blitzes, because Roethlisberger had a passer rating of 104.6 last year agianst the blitz, third-best in the NFL.

Pittsburgh has become more of a passing team with the return of Roethlisberger, and Williams' best chance to slow down Roethlisberger is by disturbing his timing and rattling him in the pocket. At the same time, he must constantly account for Steelers deep threat Mike Wallace, who is one of the fastest players in the league and will be pumped up for this game as a New Orleans native.

Bonus matchup: Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau vs. Saints quarterback Drew Brees

LeBeau is very good at confusing opposing quarterbacks, and Brees is coming off one of the worst games of his career.

Vikings CB Antoine Winfield vs. Patriots QB Tom Brady

Sunday, 4:15 p.m. ET, FOX

The Patriots are somewhat of a surprise team at 5-1, who lead the NFL in scoring at 29.5 points per game. They have won 15 consecutive games agianst NFC opponents at Gillette Stadium.

Winfield is one of the best cover corners in the NFL. He is small, but makes up for it with his quickness and tackling ability. He is the second-leading tackler on the team with 41 and does not back away from a challenge in man-to-man coverage. He has the skills and awareness to make plays on the ball.

Once Winfield gets his hands on a receiver, he is great at re-routing them in zone coverage. He struggles deep against tall and fast receivers, and Patriots wideout Brandon Tate could give him problems.

Brady had a great preseason and continues to play well. He is not fast as a runner, but is outstanding at feeling pressure in the pocket and slides or steps up into the pocket to avoid it, the way Dan Marino used to do. He is very good at throwing the long ball, but will likely stick to the short and intermediate passes in this game. He must stay away from turnovers, and Winfield has the best chance to force one.

Bonus matchup: Vikings running back Adrian Peterson vs. Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo

Mayo is back to his Pro Bowl form of 2008, but he won't have an easy time taking down Peterson, one of the league's best rushers.

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