By Kyle Fisher
Green has been a nice surprise for fantasy owners this season, averaging 274.7 passing yards per game in three starts. He has a good matchup against a Raiders defense that is clearly not as good as it was against the pass last season. The Raiders are surrendering 256 yards per game through the air. With Chris Chambers and Ronnie Brown, Green has two nice targets to take advantage of this matchup.
Barber might not start, but he is the No. 1 back in Dallas. Barber has produced for fantasy owners this season, gaining 85.3 rushing yards per game and four touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Barber has his best matchup to date against a Ram defense that has already given up five touchdowns and 152.3 yards per game on 4.7 yards per carry. Look for Barber's great start to continue.
Jones had a nice 110-yard effort against Miami last week after starting slowly. We see similar numbers this week for Jones against a weak Bills defense. The Bills are last in the NFL against both the run and the pass, so all Jets should be good plays. More specifically, Jones is going against a defense that is allowing 177.3 yards a game on the ground at 5.2 yards per carry.
Manning is off to good start, averaging 251.7 yards per game through the air and two touchdowns per game. He has actually has thrown one more touchdown than his more famous brother. Manning played well against the Eagles last season, throwing for 814 yards and five touchdowns in three games. The Eagles have struggled this season against the pass. Three opposing quarterbacks have each thrown for 200-plus yards against this defense, including John Kitna's 446-yard effort last week. While we don't see Manning duplicating that effort, we do see the Giants attacking the Eagles through the air.
With all the controversy surrounding Rex Grossman, it is easy to forget that Benson has also struggled. Benson is gaining just 63 yards per game at a 3.2-yard clip. Look for the Bears to control John Kitna and the passing game by keeping the Detroit offense on the bench. Benson has his best matchup of the season. The Lions have allowed an NFL-leading six rushing touchdowns while surrendering 129.3 yards per game. Brian Griese should make fewer mistakes than Grossman, which will lead to more prolonged drives and more attempts for Benson.
McGahee has been good, but not great, this season. He has had almost 100 yards in his last two games but has yet to get in the end zone. This is by far McGahee's most favorable matchup of the young season. The Browns are 31st in the league against the run, giving up 176.3 yards per game on almost five yards per carry. Look for McGahee to crack the 100-yard mark for the first time this season.
Jennings has a favorable matchup this week. The Packers are last in the NFL in rushing while the Vikings have one of the strongest run defenses in the league. Expect the Packers to abort the run and put the ball in the air against a defense ranked 20th against the pass at 243 yards per game. Further support for this theory comes from the fact that Packers quarterback Brett Favre threw for 632 yards in two matchups against the Vikings last year. Jennings caught four balls for 82 yards and a touchdown last week in his return. Expect similar numbers.
Foster has played well under new offensive coordinator Jeff Davidson's zone-blocking scheme. Foster is gaining almost 80 yards a game on the ground at over five yards per carry. With quarterback Jake Delhomme questionable with an elbow injury, look for Carolina to use its improved ground game (sixth in the league) to control the clock. The Buccaneers have not been great against the run, surrendering almost 125 yards per game at four yards per carry. While some of Foster's carries will be taken by DeAngelo Williams, Foster has clearly been the better of the two backs so far and, therefore, should get the majority of the carries.
Lynch has been the only offensive weapon for the Bills this season as the passing game has been abysmal. Despite playing against two of the top seven rushing defenses in the NFL his first three weeks, Lynch has averaged 76 yards per game at a very respectable four yards per carry. The matchup gets easier against a Jets unit that is 20th against the run, allowing 121.3 yards per game. With starter J.P. Losman out, look for the Bills to give the ball to Lynch a lot. He might not have a great yard-per-carry average, but he should gain enough yards to make it into your lineup.
The Browns likely will have a great deal of difficulty moving the ball against the NFL's No. 1-rated run defense in the Ravens. However, that makes this a good matchup for Edwards, who is quickly emerging as one of the top young receivers in football. Edwards has already hauled in 15 passes in three games with an outstanding 18.5 yards-per-catch average and three touchdowns. Edwards is also helped by the injured shoulder of tight end Kellen Winslow, who will be less than 100 percent even if he plays. While the Ravens are great against the run, they have been rather pedestrian against the pass. They are giving up 239 yards per game and have already surrendered five touchdowns through the air.
Rivers had his best week of the year last week against the Packers, but the Chargers still lost, falling to 1-2. Look for the Chargers to try and establish running back LaDainian Tomlinson early and often, as this is the biggest game of their young season. The Chiefs are 18th in the NFL against the run and a very respectable fifth against the pass. While we expect Rivers to be efficient, he probably will not get enough pass attempts -- especially if the Chargers jump out to a lead -- to produce gaudy fantasy numbers.
The Cowboys do not have the greatest pass defense statistically, but this is a bad matchup for Bulger. He is already playing without the starting left side of his offensive line due to injury; Steven Jackson is out; and Bulger himself has injured ribs. Bulger struggled last week with three interceptions and clearly is playing in a lot of pain. The Rams are just 20th in the NFL in passing, and Bulger has a quarterback rating of 69.8. While the Cowboys are just 23rd in the league in passing yards allowed, they lead the NFL in interceptions with eight. With backups on the entire left side of the St. Louis offensive line, look for Dallas coach Wade Phillips to unleash DeMarcus Ware and for Bulger to struggle.
As mentioned, the Ravens have the NFL's No. 1 run defense. They are allowing just 61.7 yards per game on 2.9 yards per carry. Furthermore, while Lewis is third in the NFL in rushing with 307 yards, 216 of those yards came in one game against the poor Bengals run defense. The Steelers held Lewis to 35 yards, and we see that possibility for Lewis this week.
James has been very good early and a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners. He is sixth in the league in rushing with 277 yards on 4.6 yards per carry. However, this week he is matched up against one of the top units in football. The Steelers are surrendering only 79.7 yards per game and have faced top backs Jamal Lewis, Marshawn Lynch and Frank Gore. Those three backs averaged just 46 yards on 3.1 yards per carry.
Ward has impressed in Brandon Jacobs' absence. He is eighth in the league in rushing at 91 yards per game and averages 5.1 yards per carry. This week, Ward faces an Eagles defense that is fourth in the league against the run, giving up just 71.7 yards per game on 3.5 yards per carry. Ward has a tough matchup, as the Giants can take advantage of the Eagles' struggles stopping the pass, which therefore might limits Ward's touches. No back has rushed for more than 69 yards against the Eagles this season.
Williams has been very productive the last two weeks, scoring three touchdowns. However, he has been nicked up and gained just 55.7 yards per game this season. Williams faces a Panthers defense that held him to 46 yards per game last season and just 58 yards per game for his career. This, plus the Panthers' susceptibility to the pass, hurts Williams' value.
Cutler has been good, but not great, this season. He is ninth in passing at 265 yards per game and has thrown three touchdowns. However, he is going up against a Colts defense that is especially tough against the pass at home. In the Colts last eight home games, they have given up less than 171 yards per game through the air and less than one touchdown pass per game. The Colts are 10th in the league against the pass, allowing 191 yards per game.
Peyton Manning has simply owned the Broncos. In his last three games against Denver, he has averaged nearly 400 yards a game passing. Plus, in Manning's last eight home games he has averaged 278 yards per game through the air with 17 touchdowns. Denver also has had a lot trouble stopping the run, giving up 166 yards per game on 4.6 yards per carry, meaning Joseph Addai should have a big day. With all of the Colts' offensive weapons, things don't look good for the Broncos defense.