Matchups to Watch  


Cream of the crop matchups in Week 15, including Brees-Reed


Saints at Ravens: Drew Brees vs. Ed Reed

Brees is an accurate passer who excels at finding open windows to throw through. His understanding of the game is impeccable, but is matched on the defensive side by Reed. Brees rarely makes poor decisions, but has more interceptions than usual this year, and Reed will try and bait him into a mistake. Brees will probably try and look Reed off with his eyes, but the safety does a great job figuring out what other teams are going to do and is tough to fool. Brees and the Saints will try and trick Reed by running unexpected plays out of a variety of formations. For his part, though, Reed is so adept at reading the offense, it sometimes seems like he is in the opponent's huddle. This should be a great battle of brilliant football minds.


Cardinals at Panthers: Daryl Washington vs. Jonathan Stewart

Washington is an explosive athlete, who can play on all three downs. He is tough, competitive and a good tackler. Those tackling skills will be put to the test by the powerful Stewart, however. For Arizona to win, it must stop the run this week, and Washington is central to those efforts. Stewart, meanwhile, is finally healthy, and excels at finding daylight. He is the focal point of Carolina's rushing attack.


Browns at Bengals: Peyton Hillis vs. Dhani Jones

Hillis has good running ability and will make people miss. He's not just a straight-line power back. It is important to have a back like him to be successful late in the year in that division full of bad-weather home teams. He needs to play well this week for the Browns to win the battle of Ohio. Jones lacks size for the position and used to play on the outside. He fills well in the hole and has a passion for the game. He does a good job shedding blocks, but struggles somewhat in space.


Redskins at Cowboys: Reed Doughty vs. Jason Witten

Doughty is a classic overachiever. He plays with great passion and is a smart, instinctive player. He's a lot like old Cowboys player Bill Bates. Quickness and speed hurt him, and Witten possesses both. He will have to be at his absolute best to slow down Witten and give the Redskins a chance. Witten can block, catch and is a smooth route runner. He is also good running after the catch. He has started 113 consecutive games. He has very good hands. He needs another game like last week when he had seven receptions and two touchdowns for the Cowboys to prevail against the Redskins.


Jaguars at Colts: Maurice Jones-Drew vs. Gary Brackett

Jones-Drew is on fire. He has rushed over 100 yards in six consecutive games. He has great quickness and power. He is built really well in his lower body. He does not go down easily and will fight for extra yards. He can pass protect and is outstanding on screens and draws. He is a playamaker and is the key to winning. Brackett will play on all downs and is involved in getting their front seven lined up correctly. He is a good athlete, and has the ability to side-step the block and make the play. He is all about his fit and lateral ability. He needs to win this battle and stop the screens and draw plays for Indianapolis to win.


Bills at Dolphins: Ryan Fitzpatrick vs. Vontae Davis

Fitzpatrick has good leadership qualities and moblity. He is smart and willing to play hurt. He has good accuracy, except every so often he loses total command of a pass and throws it wildly. He needs to keep an eye on Cameron Wake, Miami's top pass rusher. Davis is very good in pass coverage. He has enough strength to jam receivers and is good at supporting the run. He is a good tackler. He will get tested by Buffalo and has to contain Steve Johnson for the Dolphins to win.


Eagles at Giants: DeSean Jackson vs. Terrell Thomas

Jackson put on a show against the Cowboys last week. He is small, but unbelievably quick and fast. He is a threat on reverses and in the return game. He is a tough matchup and has become harder this season because of RB LeSean McCoy's play. Thomas plays smart and has very good instincts. His long arms make it hard to throw over him. He does a good job getting his hands on you. He will try to knock Jackson off his routes and punish him once he makes receptions.



Chiefs at Rams: Derrick Johnson vs. Steven Jackson

Johnson's outstanding play this season has earned him a lucrative contract. He is at his best when he can flow to the ball. He makes plays in space and is very good at stripping the ball carrier. He needs to control Jackson. Jackson has an outstanding combination of size, speed and power. He can make the first tackler miss. He very seldom fumbles, although he did last week. He's a very good receiver and blocker. He needs to rush for 100 yards for the Rams to have a shot at victory.



Lions at Buccaneers: Ndamukong Suh vs. Bucs interior line

Suh is a big, strong player with powerful hands and quickness. He plays with a passion. He has eight sacks this season, which is exceptional for a rookie playing defensive tackle. He can take down the ball carrier with one hand. Hardman, Jeremy Zuttah and Ted Larsen comprise the middle of the Buccaneers' offensive line. They aren't elite players, but they do work hard and play with good effort. They will have their hands full with the immensely talented Suh. Buccaneers quarterback Josh Freeman excels at eluding the pass rush, but if he tries to escape up the middle, he might run right into the waiting arms of Suh. This has the potential to be a major mismatch.


Texans at Titans: Arian Foster vs. Stephen Tulloch

Foster leads the NFL in rushing with 1,330 yards and touchdowns with 13. Foster is one of the success stories of this year. He has very good vision as a runner in the Texans' zone-blocking scheme. He does a good job as a receiver and is a decent blocker. Tulloch is short and the team's leading tackler. He is very strong at the point of attack and has good instincts. He is highly competitive. He needs to stop Foster before he gets to the second level.



Falcons at Seahawks: Michael Turner vs. David Hawthorne

Turner leads the NFC in rushing and touchdowns. He has a very good burst to go along with power and vision. He comes out a lot in passing situations but is a willing blocker. He needs to play well and keep the chains moving for Atlanta to be successful. Hawthorne was an undrafted free agent and was recently awarded a new contract. He competes hard on every play. If you stop Turner, you've stopped what Atlanta likes to do: Run the ball and shorten the game. Hawthorne is the main man responsible for getting that done.



Broncos at Raiders: D.J. Williams vs. Darren McFadden

Williams is the Broncos' leading tackler. The team is ranked 30th or below in all categories. Williams is athletic and competes hard all the time. He plays well in space. He should have a lot of chances to make tackles against the power run game of the Raiders. McFadden has big-play potential every time he touches the ball. He has a vicious stiff-arm and the ability to make people miss. He is an outstanding receiver and should have a big game against the Broncos.



Jets at Steelers: David Harris vs. Rashard Mendenhall

Harris is the leading tackler on the league's third-ranked defense. He is playing at a Pro Bowl level. He has outstanding instincts and above-average tackling ability. He is tough and compettive. He takes great angles. He should have a big impact in this game because the windy conditions could make it very difficult to pass the ball. Mendenhall has very good speed and has the power to break tackles. He has good hands and the ability to run after the catch. He has to be very aware in order to pick up blitzers. The Steelers' O-Line is just average and the Jets blitz more than any team in the league.


Packers at Patriots: Tramon Williams vs. Tom Brady

Williams has gone from being a college walk-on at Louisiana Tech to a key cog for the Packers. He is quick to see and react to the ball. He gets in good position to knock down passes. He has had 17 passes defensed and five picks this year. He has very good ball skills and can run with receivers. He will need to have a big night for the Packers to have any chance. Brady has not thrown an interception in his past 268 passes. He will be playing against the No. 1 scoring defense and the No. 3 passing defense. He has great poise and accuracy. It will be interesting to see what Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers does to stop him.


Bears at Vikings: Brian Urlacher vs. Adrian Peterson

Urlacher, the team's leading tackler, is having a very good year. He is a free-access player, who can run and make plays from sideline to sideline. He had 11 tackles and a sack last week. He is a very good pass defender and plays within the scheme very well. With Brett Favre and Tarvaris Jackson possibly out, everything falls on Peterson's shoulders. He is the conference leader in TDs. He ran for just 26 yards against the Giants last week. Defenses will play the run with little regard to the pass in this game. Peterson has to produce big for Minnesota to beat the Bears.



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