Welcome to another edition of KFFL's " Strong Plays, Weak Plays" feature. Here, we'll identify strong matchups of interest that you can exploit as well as determine a few weak matchups in which you might want to consider benching your normal starter in favor of a backup. Our intention is not to tell you the obvious, such as " Start LaDainian Tomlinson!" or " Start Peyton Manning!" Instead, it is to point out some matchups involving players that aren't considered fantasy stars. Of course, we'll sometimes highlight a top fantasy player's matchup if it is an especially noteworthy strong or weak play.
Important, Please Read! Remember, just because a player has a strong-play matchup does not mean that it is an automatic endorsement as a starter. It does provide you with some valuable information to make decisions, though. As an example, some players with the " Strong Play" tag may still be a No. 4 fantasy wideout and shouldn't be started ahead of your normal starters. He just may have greater potential than normal but not enough to warrant a definite benching of someone else for him. Conversely, if a player is on the " Weak Play" list, he may not be an automatic bench, either. A stud won't have an easy matchup every week. However, he's a stud because he can overcome the weak-play situation.
Quarterbacks - Strong Play
McNabb had a great performance last week throwing for 251 yards and four touchdowns. One of his touchdowns seemed to be somewhat of a fluke as a poor throw was made into a good one by wide receiver Reggie Brown. On another one running back Brian Westbrook used his elusiveness and speed to break away from the defense to turn a short screen into a 57-yard touchdown play. This week he faces a Dolphins defense that is giving up less than 200 yards passing to the position over the last four weeks, but is allowing two touchdowns per game through the air during that span. McNabb has a strong play matchup and should be considered a No. 1 option at quarterback this week.
Running Backs - Strong Plays
Taylor is set to get his first real taste as the starting back since running back Adrian Peterson (knee) took over that role earlier this season. Fantasy owners shouldn't forget that Taylor rushed for more than 1,200 yards last season while crossing the goal line six times. Needless to say, Taylor has been one of the hottest commodities on the waiver wire this week. His matchup against the Raiders is a favorable one. They are one of the worst rushing defenses in the league and are allowing more than a touchdown per game to the position over the last four weeks. Taylor should be used as a No. 3 running back due to his strong play matchup.
Grant has made the most of his opportunities since getting the starting job in Week 8. He has now rushed for more than 100 yards in two of his three starts this season, including an impressive performance last week rushing for 119 yards and a score against a stout Vikings run defense. This week he faces a favorable matchup in the Panthers. The team is allowing 131 offensive yards and 1.67 touchdowns per game to the position over the last three games. Grant seems to be a solid back and fits really well into the zone blocking system the Packers run. Feel comfortable playing him as a moderate No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy back this week.
Wide Receivers - Strong Plays
There was a Brown sighting last week, at least in the end zone anyway, pulling in his first touchdown of the year. He managed only three receptions for 55 yards, while the touchdown seemed to be more luck than anything else. Brown should have been a receiver that owners were tracking and waiting for him to have a breakout game. This week's matchup could be a good one for him to exploit as he faces a Dolphins defense that is allowing more than 150 yards and 1.67 touchdowns per game to the position over the last four weeks. Look to start him as a moderate No. 2 or No. 3 receiver this week.
Mason has his most unproductive game of the season last week, pulling in four receptions for 29 yards. The Ravens offense has seen inconsistencies at the quarterback position over the last two weeks with the team replacing quarterback Steve McNair (shoulder) in each game with quarterback Kyle Boller. Mason has been the most consistent receiver on the team and that shouldn't change with the team naming Boller as its starter for at least the next two weeks. The Browns defense has been easy to pick apart over their last few games; allowing more than 19 receptions for 231-plus yards and 1.33 touchdowns to the position. If the offensive line can give Boller some time to throw this could turn out to be a big week for Mason. Start him as a moderate No. 2 or solid No. 3 option at receiver.
The Browns offense has got a significant shot in the arm since changing quarterbacks prior to Week 2. The offense that was thought to have just a few playmakers has expanded its playmaking abilities to players like Jurevicius. The Ravens secondary has been in shambles over the last few weeks as both starting cornerbacks have been out due to injury and illness, and they are giving up more than 180 yards and a touchdown per game to the position over the last four weeks. Jurevicius could be started as a moderate No. 2 or solid No. 3 option at receiver this week.
Tight Ends - Strong Play
For some reason last week the Saints found it difficult to move the ball on a St. Louis Rams team that hadn't won a game until last week. Johnson was still able to get his, which included three catches and a touchdown. He has a favorable matchup this week against a Texans team that is giving up close to a touchdown per game to the position and more than four catches per contest over the last four weeks. Johnson is getting an average of four looks per game so the averages above seem to be a solid gauge on what to expect from him this week. He should be looked at as a low tier No. 1 option at tight end.
Place Kickers - Strong Play
The Packers as a team are hitting on all cylinders and Crosby is making the most of his opportunities. He is averaging more than 10 points per game over the last four weeks, and only two other kickers in the league have put up better numbers over that span. The Panthers defense is allowing just three points less than what Crosby is averaging and could find it difficult to prevent the Packers from getting into Crosby's range. He is a solid No. 1 kicking option heading into their Week 11 matchup.
Team Defenses - Strong Play
The Chargers defense is coming off one of their most impressive performances of the season where they sacked Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning twice and forced him into a career-high six interceptions. The Jaguars offense isn't a dominant force. They have shown that they are susceptible to allowing the sack and turning the ball over. The expected return of quarterback David Garrard (ankle) could make them less one dimensional, but for the most part the Chargers should be able to sit on the run forcing them to beat the Chargers through the air. They have a strong play matchup and should be considered a solid No. 1 option this week.
Quarterbacks - Weak Play
Garcia was the epitome of quiet success this year. His numbers weren't off the charts, but he went back to the efficiency that helped him carry the Philadelphia Eagles to the NFC East title last season. He didn't throw an interception until Week 8 this year, but ended up tossing a trio of picks in that same game. His status as a temporary fantasy quarterback is not going to change with his matchup against the Falcons this week. Garcia's coming off a Bye, but the Falcons have stalemated the quarterback position over the last three games. The Bucs could utilize their running game more; running back Michael Pittman is expected to return to split the workload with halfback Earnest Graham. Garcia could still be used as a low-end starter this week, but if you can you should put him aside for the week.
Running Backs - Weak Plays
Jacobs has returned with a vengeance. He has hit the century mark in rushing yards in three of his last five games, and the other two games he tallied 86 and 95 yards on the ground. He even has a total of seven catches over his last four games, which helps in point-per-reception leagues. He has pretty much kept fellow running back Reuben Droughns out of the picture, and the injury to running back Derrick Ward (ankle) has put the spotlight solely on Jacobs. The bright lights might not help him this week against a Lions rushing defense that has kept opposing backs at 73.2 yards per game over the last four contests. Detroit has been one of the feel-good stories in the league, but Jacobs might not hold those same emotions at Ford Field during Week 11. Sure, he's a weak play, but Jacobs could still get his share of yardage and make a steady No. 2 back.
This game might be a trap for both these running backs. Like Jacobs, Jones has resurged coming off an injury this season. He had three consecutive games when he hit at least 71 yards and scored two touchdowns over that stretch. However, in Week 10, Jones was part of a futile record set by the Lions (minus-18 team rushing yards) by contributing with minus-four yards on the ground though he somehow found the end zone. Jones might continue to struggle this week as he's dealing with a sore foot. In addition, with the Lions' Thanksgiving game approaching, Jones' touches might be tapered off a bit. With the problems he's already facing, Jones might not be a positive factor against the Giants, who have a stout run defense that hasn't allowed a touchdown to the position over the last three contests. However, the battered Jones should still be considered a No. 2 fantasy back.
Wide Receivers - Weak Plays
This is a case of too many options on a highly well-rounded team. Welker has been a dynamo from the slot, acting as a No. 1 receiver by utilizing mismatches. He has a four-game touchdown streak over which he has hit the end zone six times. Welker also has 34 receptions over that stretch. Quarterback Tom Brady has never been afraid to rip the hearts out of the fantasy owners who boast New England wide receivers; Brady has thrown touchdowns to the likes of linebacker Mike Vrabel and backup running back Kyle Eckel. Against a tough Bills pass defense, he might be prompted to pull out some more trick plays near the goal line and in the red zone. Welker should still see his fair share of looks, but don't be surprised if he repeats his 38-yard performance from Week 9. That being said, you should still slot him in as a No. 1 wideout.
Galloway has taken a sip from Ponce de Leon's fountain, and he has put up at least 80 receiving yards in five of his nine games this season. The wideout, who will turn 37 years old two days before Thanksgiving, has also caught a touchdown in three of his last four games. He has been the rock for Garcia this season. The Falcons have allowed less than 100 yards per game combined to opposing wide receivers in their last three games, and they have only surrendered one touchdown to the position over that time. Despite this poor matchup, Galloway should still be considered a No. 2 wideout since he reamins Garcia's No. 1 target.
Cotchery has served his purpose as a mid-round draft choice that performs as a No. 2 fantasy wideout. Despite catching only one touchdown in 2007, Cotchery has hauled in 21 passes over his last four games. Quarterback Kellen Clemens has looked to him often during his transition to the starting job. This role might change, however, with the return of fellow wideout Laveranues Coles from a concussion. The Jets will likely look to Coles early on for a sparkplug against the Steelers. Pittsburgh is allowing double-digit receptions to the position over the last month, but Cotchery's numbers could dwindle as he moves back to the No. 2 wideout position. He drops to a normal No. 3 receiver in fantasy leagues, but he should still get a similar amount of looks to what he had with Coles in the lineup. Cotchery should be played with lowered expectations this week.
Tight End - Weak Play
If you're thinking about sitting Gonzalez, let those thoughts exit via the other ear. You don't ever want to sit him when he's healthy, even if there's a new starter in town. Rookie quarterback Brodie Croyle goes under center this week for the Chiefs, and head coach Herm Edwards has maintained he wants Croyle to man the offense for the rest of the season. Croyle will most likely look to Gonzalez to establish a rhythm in his first career start; Gonzalez has already had 10.67 targets per game over the last three games. The team may also rely on running back Priest Holmes to carry more of the load after his solid play from last week. However, the Colts have laughed at the tight end position over the past month, allowing approximately 42 yards per game to the position. Gonzalez should be able to find some seams, but the Colts will most likely be keying on him with the mindset that he will help Croyle break into the starting role. Gonzalez might be able to put up solid No. 1 numbers this week, but the Colts' recent history dictates that he could be compromised in terms of numbers.
Place Kicker - Weak Play
A kicker that averages nearly six extra-point attempts per game usually ranks near the high end of the position. Gostkowski has put up nearly eight kicker points per game over the last three games, but he has attempted only three field goals combined over the last three weeks. Gostkowski has not attempted a field goal in the 50-yard range all year since the Patriots have been consistently crossed deep into opposing territory. His strength had been his frequency of kicks; regarding distance, he has had quantity over quality. Three of the Bills' last five opponents have scored 15 points or less, and that doesn't bode well for Gostkowski despite his team's elite offense. He could see his numbers take a hit despite his status as a mid-tier No. 1 kicker.
Team Defense - Weak Play
It's time to end the fantasy myth that portrays the 2007 Ravens defense as an untouchable unit. They still reach the quarterback (2.7 sacks per game), but their turnover numbers have dwindled. In their last three games, they have averaged only 0.67 interceptions and have not recovered a fumble. They have also battled numerous injuries to key members of the secondary, with free safety Ed Reed (back) and cornerbacks Chris McAlister (knee) and Samari Rolle (illness) struggling to stay healthy. The role reversal also touches on the Browns, who are no longer an offensive pushover. The emergence of quarterback Derek Anderson has become one of the surprise stories of 2007, and wide receiver Braylon Edwards and tight end Kellen Winslow have risen to elite fantasy status at their respective positions. The Browns should mix in running back Jamal Lewis with their air attack, and the Ravens might struggle to keep up.
About Richard Garcia
Garcia served as a managing editor for KFFL. Prior to his time with KFFL, Richard worked in managerial roles with both Frito-Lay Inc. and UPS. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in public relations from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona and fulfilled his internship requirements with the Los Angeles Kings Hockey organization in 2001.
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