Player matchups: Rams' Jackson a solid start

By Kyle Fisher

Good Matchups

Steven Jackson vs. CIN

Jackson has been much better lately but still has not had the kind of season fantasy owners expected. Jackson has rushed for at least 90 yards in three consecutive games and faces a Bengals defense that ranks 23rd against the run, surrendering 118.9 yards per game. With the situation at quarterback unknown -- with both Marc Bulger and Gus Frerotte are banged up, Brock Berlin could be the starter -- look for Jackson to get the ball a lot and continue his solid play of late.

Ryan Grant vs. OAK

Grant has been consistent since taking over six games ago. He has rushed for less than 88 yards just once in those six games. Grant should run for much more than that against a Raiders defense that is 30th against the run and has allowed a league-high 20 rushing touchdowns. Brett Favre is recovering from injury, and the Raiders are solid against the pass, so expect the Packers to control the game on the ground.

At press time Lynch still was questionable against the Dolphins. Whoever gets the bulk of the carries should find an easy time against a Dolphins that, in addition to surrendering an NFL-high 149.7 rushing yards per game and 16 rushing touchdowns, is without Zach Thomas. Expect the Bills to keep the ball on the ground against Miami as freezing rain is forecasted for Buffalo on Sunday.

Kolby Smith vs. DEN

Smith has played better in the last two weeks than perhaps any other Chiefs running back all season. Smith has 233 yards and has a favorable matchup against the 31st-ranked Broncos run defense that allows 149.1 yards per game. The Broncos shut down Priest Holmes in their first meeting, but we're more confident in Smith's fresh legs.

Patrick Crayton vs. DET

Crayton gets overlooked with the array of stars in Dallas. However, Crayton has quietly put together a productive year for fantasy owners. Crayton has seven touchdowns and more than 500 yards receiving in a Cowboys offense that should produce big numbers against a Lions defense that is 31st in the league against the pass. While all the big stars for the Cowboys offense should have big days, we think there will enough left for Crayton to warrant fantasy consideration.

Vince Young vs. SD

A month ago, Young might have been the biggest non-injured fantasy bust. However, since Albert Haynesworth's injury four weeks ago, Young has thrown for at least 246 yards in each of his last four games. What is more encouraging is he did this last week in a victory, instead of just racking up garbage time numbers in a blowout loss. Young has also increased his production on the ground as he has rushed for at least 44 yards in three of his last four games. The Chargers are not the unit they were a year ago, ranking 22nd against the pass and 20th against the run. With LenDale White a little banged up, look for Young to continue to be the focal point of the offense.

Jamal Lewis vs. NYJ

Despite last weeks loss, Lewis was productive for fantasy owners with 86 combined yards and a touchdown. The Jets have been poor against the run all season, ranking 29th and giving up 141.1 yards per game. The Jets are decent against the pass, though, so expect Lewis to get plenty of opportunities to help the Browns bounce back from last week's disappointing loss.

Kellen Clemens vs. CLE

Clemens' numbers don't wow you. He has thrown for just four touchdowns and seven interceptions and has a quarterback rating of just 61.5. However, those numbers were mostly against the Ravens, Redskins, Steelers, Cowboys and Dolphins. All, except for the Ravens, rank in the Top 10 in either yards allowed or quarterback rating. This week Clemens faces a Cleveland defense that is 30th in yards, has allowed the most touchdowns passes in the league and has the eighth-highest passer rating allowed. The weather is not expected to be a factor, so in a pinch Clemens might be a good one-week start.

Bad Matchups

Donald Driver vs. OAK

Driver has led Packers receiving all season, catching 70 passes. However, he has just gotten in the end zone twice and not in the past nine games. While the Raiders aren't a great team, they are fifth in the league against the pass and have allowed just eight passing touchdowns this season. With Green Bay's Ryan Grant expected to have a big day against a poor Raiders run defense and Brett Favre returning from injury, all signs point to a slow day for Driver and perhaps the entire Packers passing game.

Laurence Maroney vs. PIT

Maroney ranks as one of the biggest fantasy disappointments this season. Projected by most as a Top-10 back, Maroney has struggled with injury and lack of opportunity. He has averaged only 10.6 carries since returning from injury. This week, Maroney faces the NFL's second-ranked run defense in the Steelers. Pittsburgh is giving up just 76.8 yards per game and has surrendered a league-low three rushing touchdowns. Don't expect Maroney's fortune to change this week.

Kurt Warner vs. SEA

Warner has once again become fantasy relevant. In fact, he might be one of the NFL's hotter quarterbacks. In the last four weeks he has thrown at least two touchdowns in each game. This week, however, he faces a Seahawks defense that, while just 14th in passing yards allowed, is No. 1 in both passer rating allowed (68.5) and touchdowns allowed (seven). We're not saying bench Warner, but don't expect a duplication of the last four weeks.

Jay Cutler vs. KC

Cutler had his worst game of the season last week in a loss to Oakland. Although the Broncos defeated the Chiefs less than a month ago, Cutler's numbers were rather pedestrian. He threw for less than 200 yards with a touchdown and an interception. This was not surprising since the Chiefs have the seventh-rated pass defense and have allowed only 10 touchdowns this season. Cutler might be efficient but shouldn't provide the gaudy numbers fantasy owner's desire.

Frank Gore vs. MIN

Just when it looks like that Gore may breakout of his mediocre season, the 49ers fall way behind the Panthers, and Gore is limited to 12 carries. He was still fairly productive, gaining a combined 111 yards in the loss. Still, Gore looks as though he will fall far short of preseason projections. This week Gore faces the top-ranked run defense in the Vikings, who have been on a roll lately. The Vikings have given up just less than 54 yards per game on the ground in their last three games. It looks like Gore's mediocre season will continue, at least for this week.

Joseph Addai vs. BAL

After exploding out of the gate, Addai has cooled off somewhat. He still has been productive but has not gained more than 100 yards in a month and in that time has not topped 72 yards on the ground. This week, Addai faces a Ravens defense that is still extremely formidable on the ground. The Ravens are surrendering just 78.9 yards per game on the ground at a league-best 2.8 yards per carry. While Addai is an every week starter, this may not be his most productive week.

Sage Rosenfels vs. TB

Matt Schaub does not look like he will play against Tampa Bay, and Rosenfels has actually been a viable fantasy player when he has played. In the four games that he has gotten significant time, he has thrown at least one touchdown in every game. However, Schaub owners thinking of starting Rosenfels this week might want to try someone else. The Buccaneers have allowed just 10 touchdowns passing, while ranking fourth in the league in yards allowed and surrendering just a 74.5 passer rating.

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