Chargers at Raiders: Philip Rivers vs. Nnamdi Asomugha
Asomugha is one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL and teams don't throw many passes to his side. He played safety in college and plays with toughness and aggressiveness. He is very aware and plays best in press coverage. He has good hands to make interceptions. Rivers is very smart and can feel pressure coming from the rush, much like Dan Marino did. You can't allow him to get comfortable. If Rivers is going to try and beat Asomugha, it has be a route in which the receiver runs a double-move.
Saints at Bengals: Will Smith vs. Andrew Whitworth
Smith is an impact player with a great ability to read plays as evidenced by his interception against Dallas last week. He is very athletic, and played running back in high school. Though he has good functional strength and uses his hands well to get off blocks, he will probably try to employ a speed rush on Whitworth, who possesses very long arms and great size (6-foot-7, 335 pounds). Whitworth is very athletic and powerful. His mode of attack against Smith will be to get his hands on him and redirect him.
Bears at Lions: Charles Tillman vs. Calvin Johnson
Tillman is at his best when he can play Cover 2 and jam the wideout at the line. He is clearly helped by the Bears' scheme. He has very good size and long arms, and tackles and supports the run very well. He has a problem with top speed and quick receivers. His height and leaping ability will help him contend with Johnson on jump balls. He will probably try and re-route Johnson and keep him from getting inside for the slant.
Johnson is a matchup problem due to his size and speed. He lines up all over the field, but most of the time is to the right of the quarterback. He will catch screens, crossing routes and the deep route. He makes catching the football look easy.
49ers at Packers: Michael Crabtree vs. Charles Woodson
Crabtree seems to be playing better each week. He has very long arms (34.5 inches) which helps him catch high and wide throws. He has great body control, as you can tell in his 38-yard touchdown catch against the Cardinals. He has very large, strong and soft hands. You don't hear the ball hitting his hands when he makes the catch. He's not a burner, so Woodson shouldn't have too much trouble keeping up with him. He will try and use his strength and quickness to separate from Woodson immediately.
Crabtree must maintain his concentration, because Woodson excels at stripping the ball. Woodson lines up mostly at left corner, but will move all over the field in the Packers' sub-packages. He is a very good tackler and blitzer, but could be susceptible to Crabtree on a double move.
Noteworthy: Woodson deseves credit for his off-field charity work. He made a $2 million donation to the University of Michigan's Children's Hospital this past spring.
Broncos at Chiefs: D.J. Williams vs. Jamaal Charles
Williams is a great athlete, as evidenced by the fact he rushed for 42 touchdowns one year as a running back in high school. He has the speed to make plays in space, but almost nobody has a gear to keep up with Charles, who was a top high school sprinter. He is a very good competitor and has to play well this week, because Kansas City will run the ball a lot. Charles is a great athlete, who excels as a cut-back runner. He is a good receiver and is one of the NFL's most exciting young players. He has a slender frame, so he has to avoid the big hits Williams will be looking to deliver.
Browns at Dolphins: Joe Thomas vs. Cameron Wake
Thomas has started every game in his career (59) and not missed a down. He has long arms and outstanding quickness. He does a good job with hand placement, and will have to make sure his fundamentals are perfect against the speedy Wake. Thomas has to take away Wake's first-step quickness. That is how Wake does most of his damage. Wake never slows down, so Thomas has to be attentive at all times. Thomas should have an advantage in the run game against Wake.
Bills at Vikings: Fred Jackson vs. Chad Greenway
Jackson is a true fairy-tale story that comes from Division III Coe College, the US Indoor Football League and NFL Europe, before coming to Buffalo. He plays with the passion of a player that had a long road to the NFL. He is a very good cut-back runner and blocker in pass protection. He is also an exceptional receiver, but Greenway is one of the best cover linebackers in the league.
Greenway is also a proficient tackler, and Jackson, who sometimes fumbles while trying to gain extra yardage, must be careful with his ball security. Greenway has outstanding ability to key and diagnose, and is unlikely to be fooled by any screen passes to Jackson. The winner of this matchup will likely determing the game's outcome.
Redskins at Giants: Donovan McNabb vs. Terrell Thomas
To beat the Giants, McNabb needs to come up big and that means connecting with Santana Moss, who has played well against the Giants in the past. McNabb is now more of a passer than scrambler at this stage of his career. He already has three more interceptions this year than he had all of last season, and Thomas leads the Giants in picks. For the Redskins to win, McNabb needs to be error free. Thomas' long arms make it hard to throw over him. He uses his hands well in pass coverage and has very good instincts. He plays smart and has a good feel for the game, but McNabb has torched the Giants throughout his career and won't be afraid to test Thomas early and often.
Falcons at Buccaneers: Roddy White vs. Aqib Talib
Talib held White to just four catches for 49 yards and no touchdowns when they played earlier this season. That was White's worst output this year. White leads the NFC in receptions and yards, and will catch all the patterns and run excellent routes. He also has the speed to get separation. Talib is big and strong, and will talk trash on every play. He is second in the NFL with six interceptions. He is tough to throw over and is a very good athlete, who plays the opponent's best receiver. He has good hands. For the Bucs to win, he needs to shut down White like he did in the first game. White will try to beat Talib with a quick first step off the line of scrimmage.
Jaguars at Titans: Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Stephen Tulloch
Jones-Drew has legs that look like tree trunks, but still has outstanding quickness. He is very strong and can break tackles and is also a good receiver. His small frame can be an asset and sometimes he is hard to find behind tall linemen. Tulloch, however, is also small, and shouldn't have that problem as much. He is also great at fighting through blocks to make plays and gives full effort on every play. He has solid instincts, but if he misses Jones-Drew at the point of the attack, and lets him get by, it will be tough for Tennessee to win. A classic example of Jones-Drew's running ability is the screen he caught against Cleveland two weeks ago.
Rams at Cardinals: Sam Bradford vs. Adrian Wilson
Bradford is on pace to set records for most attempts and completions by a rookie, in addition to being on pace to throw 25 touchdowns. He is coming off a career-high 308 yards and three touchdowns. He is very smart and can make all the throws. Because of his athletic ability, he has little trouble avoiding the blitzes and rushers at ease. Those skills will be put to the test by Wilson, however, who is one of the league's best blitzers from the safety position. Wilson does a great job of disguising what he is going to do, and Arizona's best chance to win is Wilson confusing Bradford and forcing him into mistakes.
Cowboys at Colts: Terence Newman vs. Peyton Manning
Newman is the Cowboys' best defensive back, but has been playing hurt and has not been as effective as in the past. He is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and is the third-leading tackler on the team. He does a good job of breaking on the ball, but lacks great hands for interceptions. He has the speed to keep up with most receivers, but was burned by Robert Meachem on a deep sideline route last week.
Manning is on pace to become the first quarterback to throw for 700 passes in a season. He is a great player, but is in somewhat of a slump. He should come out of it this week against Dallas' 24th-ranked passing defense and 30th-ranked scoring defense, however.
Panthers at Seahawks: Jonathan Stewart vs. David Hawthorne
Stewart is going back home to Washington where he grew up. He was the leading rusher and scorer last season for the Panthers. He is very strong and powerful and has good vision. He can find daylight, although it won't be easy against the aggressive Hawthorne, who excels at making plays in space. Stewart is also a good blocker and receiver, but Hawthorne is not easy to beat in coverage. Stewart is great when healthy, but has struggled with injuries this year. If Hawthorne keeps Stewart from getting loose for a big play, it will be tough for Carolina to win.
Steelers at Ravens: Rashard Mendenhall vs. Ray Lewis
Mendenhall has a very strong upper body and leg drive after contact. He has good vision to see the cut-back lane and the speed to run away from people. Lewis appears to have lost a step, so he does not want to get in a trail positon behind Mendenhall. He has soft hands and is a threat as a receiver. He needs to have a big game for the Steelers to have success. Lewis plays with great passion and is very smart. He will make Mendenhall earn every yard.
Jets at Patriots: Mark Sanchez vs. Tom Brady
There is a good chance one of these teams will be in Dallas for the Super Bowl and that starts with a win in this game. Mark Sanchez is 4-0 in his past four division games with nine TDs and no picks. He does a good job going through his progressions. He is a solid decision-maker with decent accuracy and throws a very catchable ball. He has been good bringing his team from behind late in the game this year. He has good quickness from the pocket and seems to have more arm strength than last year. He is playing on a team with good receivers. Bill Belichick will try and confuse him, and he has to be aware of that.
Brady has great work habits and prepares well for every game. He is hard to fool with schemes and he will seem some this week, especially in the second half. He is very good at feeling pressure in the pocket. He is very accurate throwing the long ball, especially to his left. He needs to be cognizant of Jets safety Jim Leonhard, who is a great playmaker.