Strong Plays, Weak Plays - Week 9

by Tim Heaney on November 2, 2007 @ 08:34:37 PDT

 


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.

Quarterback - Strong Play

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings

Matchup
Games
Pass Yards/G
Pass TDs/G
INTs/G
Rush Yards/G
Rush TD/G
Rivers
3
185.3
1.67
0.33
1.0
0.33
Vikings vs. Pos.
3
330.3
1.67
0.67
6.0
0.00

Rivers didn't need to lift his arm much last week as the Chargers were powered by two defensive touchdowns in their 35-10 victory over the Texans. He went 7-for-11 with three touchdowns; in a prorated day of production, that's extremely efficient.

He should exceed those 11 attempts against the Vikings this week. Minnesota's passing unit has been heavily attacked all season because of their outstanding run defense. Rivers should be called upon to take more control of the offense this week, and he is expected to once again rely heavily on stud running back LaDainian Tomlinson catching passes from the backfield. Slide him into your lineup without hesitation.

Running Backs - Strong Plays

LaMont Jordan, Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans

Matchup
Games
Rush Yards/G
Rush TD/G
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Jordan
3
29.0
0.00
3.33
28.7
0.00
Texans vs. Pos.
4
149.5
1.25
4.50
39.5
0.00

Readers most likely cringed at the sight of Jordan's name listed under Strong Plays. Yes, Jordan has been an enemy to his owners the past few weeks, averaging merely 57.7 total yards of offense, per contest, over his last three games. The rise of fellow running back Justin Fargas and the possible return of running back Michael Bush (leg) don't look appealing, either.

Although Jordan might not single-handedly carry the Raiders offense, he has a profitable opportunity this week to return to his old track. The Texans allow more than 200 offensive yards per game to opposing running backs over their last four games, and Jordan has a penchant for catching passes out of the backfield. This opportunity for a dual return makes Jordan a reliable No. 2 or No. 3 back for this week. 

Chris J. Henry, Tennessee Titans vs. Carolina Panthers

Matchup
Games
Rush Yards/G
Rush TD/G
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Henry
2
52.5
1.00
1.00
6.0
0.00
Panthers vs. Pos.
3
98.7
1.33
5.67
25.3
0.33

The injury to fellow Titans running back Chris Brown (ankle) allowed Henry to once again grab some carries for himself. He has hit the end zone in each of his last two games, and he is quickly establishing himself as a sturdy No. 2 back following running back LenDale White.

With Brown being limited in practice again this week, Henry has a great chance to at least rack up some yardage as a complement to White. The Panthers defense has allowed 5.67 receptions per game in their last three contests, and Henry has a better feel for catching passes than the bruiser that tops him in the depth chart. That average of 1.33 rushing touchdowns allowed also brightens his outlook. Henry could pass as a No. 2 running back this week.

Wide Receivers - Strong Plays

Lee Evans, Buffalo Bills vs. Cincinnati Bengals

Matchup
Games
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Evans
3
3.67
82.7
0.33
Bengals vs. Pos.
3
13.67
170.7
1.67

Being reunited with quarterback J.P. Losman produced some good feelings for Evans as he hauled in an 85-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to clinch a 13-3 victory over the New York Jets last week. Despite catching just four passes for 53 yards before that, Evans showed he has the potential to provide some late help to fantasy teams in the second half.

The Bengals look willing to help his fantasy growth this week. Their staggering three-game average of 13.67 receptions allowed per game to wide receivers smells like a good chance for Evans to bring another one across the goal line this week. Evans can't firmly be called a No. 1 receiver just yet, but he now has some definite promise as a No. 2 receiver.

Chris Chambers, San Diego Chargers at Minnesota Vikings

Matchup
Games
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Chambers
3
3.33
42.3
0.33
Vikings vs. Pos.
3
10.67
169.7
1.00

Chambers took advantage of his quarterback upgrade in his first game as a Charger, collecting his first touchdown of the season on one of this two catches. The Chargers' willingness to include him in the passing game (five targets in 13 attempts) - even with tight end Antonio Gates in the mix - has been a promising development to Chambers' owners.

The ever-present threat of LaDainian Tomlinson should distract the Vikings' defensive scheme from covering Chambers, and the Vikings' pass defense is one of the more vulnerable in the league. Chambers should be able to sneak in some production as a No. 3 wideout. 

Greg Jennings and Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers at Kansas City Chiefs

Matchup
Games
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Jennings
3
4.33
81.3
0.67
Driver
3
4.00
39.0
0.00
Chiefs vs. Pos.
3
11.33
160.7
1.33

Jennings' highlight shows throughout the country with his game-winning touchdown catch and run to defeat the Denver Broncos in overtime. That play alone helped him stand out this week as he finished with six receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown. Jennings has shown that breakout style while scoring in four of five games.

Driver has taken a back seat to Jennings this season, averaging four receptions and 39 yards over his last three games. He hasn't hit the end zone since Week 3, which was the only time this season he reached the century mark in receiving yards.

Now Driver could equal Jennings' production at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have been kind to wide receivers, and quarterback Brett Favre should be willing to spread the ball. Jennings could be your No. 1 receiver this week, and Driver can pass as a No. 2 or No. 3 wideout.

Tight End - Strong Play

Dallas Clark, Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots

Matchup
Games
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Clark
3
4.33
45.7
0.67
Patriots vs. Pos.
4
5.75
62.5
0.50

In the latest Battle of the Century, Clark could have two hands in the outcome. The Patriots' Achilles' heel has been defending against tight ends, and Clark has been one of the top-tier fantasy tight ends this season. The New England offense will have to worry about wide receiver Reggie Wayne and running back Joseph Addai. Clark is fast enough to challenge the Patriots' linebackers this week. The coverage of tight ends has been the lone weak spot of the New England defense this year.

Clark scored four touchdowns in thee games before his goose egg last week, but that should in no way scare you from playing him against the streaking Patriots. The Colts are expected to at least challenge the Patriots' defense, and the fact that New England has had trouble defending tight ends makes Clark a No. 1 tight end.

Place Kicker - Strong Play

David Akers, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Dallas Cowboys

Matchup
Games
FGA/G
FG/G
XPA/G
XP/G
Pts/Game
Akers
4
4.00
3.00
1.33
1.33
10.3
Cowboys vs. Pos.
3
1.67
1.00
3.67
3.67
6.7

The Eagles struggles have masked Akers' kicking success, and the southpaw has averaged 10.3 kicker points per game over his last four contests. The reemergence of quarterback Donovan McNabb will allow Akers to get some more opportunities to contribute.

The Cowboys defense has allowed 6.7 kicker points per game, but this week should be a shootout between these two teams since the Cowboys' pass defense has been less than reliable. The Eagles will go to the air often, and Akers should benefit even if the Eagles can only reach the red zone. Akers stands as a strong No. 1 play.

Team Defense - Strong Play

Oakland Raiders vs. Houston Texans

Matchup
Games
Pts/G
Yds/G
Sacks/G
Ints/G
Fum/G
Raiders Def.
3
17.7
290.0
1.3
0.67
0.00
Texans Off.
4
18.8
360.5
1.75
2.25
1.75

Although considered merely a mediocre defense the whole season, the Raiders match up with a broken-down Houston squad that will once again boast quarterback Sage Rosenfels this week. Quarterback Matt Schaub (concussion) will be missing again; Rosenfels has tossed six touchdowns and five interceptions in his playing time. He hasn't been protecting the ball well, meaning the Raiders could snatch some turnovers this week.

The Texans offense has averaged 1.75 fumbles per game in their last four contests, and this is merely a matchup play. The Raiders are graded as a No. 1 unit this week.

Quarterback - Weak Play

Kurt Warner, Arizona Cardinals at Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Matchup
Games
Pass Yards/G
Pass TDs/G
INTs/G
Rush Yards/G
Rush TD/G
Warner
3
164.3
1.00
1.00
0.0
0.33
Buccaneers vs. Pos.
4
186.2
0.75
0.50
3.2
0.00

Warner (elbow) already comes into this game after injuring his elbow during Week 6. He unexpectedly made the start in Week 7 and put up two touchdowns along with 282 yards. Warner should be much closer to 100 percent, health-wise, and is expected to start once again.

A Bye week rest won't help Warner that much against the Buccaneers, who have allowed less than one touchdown on average over their last four contests. The immobile Warner isn't comfortable against a pass rush, and Warner shouldn't be relied on unless it's an emergency.

Running Backs - Weak Plays

Laurence Maroney, New England Patriots at Indianapolis Colts

Matchup
Games
Rush Yards/G
Rush TD/G
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Maroney
2
53.0
0.00
1.00
18.5
0.00
Colts vs. Pos.
3
67.0
0.67
6.33
27.3
0.00

Maroney pilfered some of quarterback Tom Brady's glory last week with 14 carries and 75 yards in his second game since Week 3. On the downside, Maroney once again failed to reach the end zone, maintaining his goose egg in that department.

Fantasy owners might want to jump on his back now that he's healthy, but the Colts boast a rushing defense that has surrendered just 67.0 yards a game to the position over their last three contests. The Patriots would like Maroney to take some pressure off Brady and distract the Colts defense, but the Indianapolis front seven has been too strong to rely on that strategy. He could still be a No. 3 running back despite the obstacles he faces. 

Maurice Jones-Drew, Jacksonville Jaguars at New Orleans Saints

Matchup
Games
Rush Yards/G
Rush TD/G
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Jones-Drew
4
76.8
1.00
3.00
30.0
0.00
Saints vs. Pos.
4
74.2
0.00
3.50
27.8
0.00

Jones-Drew allowed his fantasy owners to exhale after successfully testing the knee he almost injured in Week 7; he even scored a touchdown to add to the relief. He was used in 10 fewer plays than fellow running back Fred Taylor, however, as the coaching staff seemed to play him with caution.

The Saints' defensive strength has come against the run, and Jones-Drew could suffer because of that. Jones-Drew averages almost the same amount of rushing yards per game as the Saints have allowed over their past four games. The Saints haven't allowed a 100-yard rusher all season and haven't allowed a touchdown to a running back since Week 3. Jones-Drew could still be considered a No. 1 back, but you should prepare for him to slightly falter from his normal expectations.

Wide Receivers - Weak Plays

Kevin Walter, Houston Texans at Oakland Raiders

Matchup
Games
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Walter
4
7.50
100.2
0.25
Raiders vs. Pos.
3
4.00
57.0
0.00

Walter's emergence from the waiver wire has been the subject of many fantasy success stories this season. The absence of wide receiver Andre Johnson (knee) has allowed for Walter to average more than 100 yards per game over his last four contests.

The feel-good Walter anecdotes could end this week since the Raiders have stung opposing wideouts. They are only surrendering four receptions and 57.0 yards per game to the position over their last three outings, and they haven't surrendered a touchdown since Week 3. Since the Texans continue to rely on the pass, however, Walter must be in your lineup. He still ranks as a No. 1 or a No. 2.

Brandon Marshall, Denver Broncos at Detroit Lions

Matchup
Games
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Marshall
3
5.33
74.3
0.00
Lions vs. Pos.
3
11.33
129.7
0.67

Marshall produced some fantasy smiles Monday night as he broke a tackle after making a catch and followed a solid block to bring the Broncos into field goal range. His receiving and yardage averages over his past three games have entrenched him as a No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy receiver this week.

The Lions, however, haven't been overwhelmingly beaten by wide receivers this season. Marshall cannot be guaranteed to make an impact this week given the wide-open Broncos' passing game, which is currently being diluted by wide receiver Brandon Stokley and tight end Tony Scheffler. Marshall ranks as a No. 2 or No. 3 receiver, but you should have some other stable options to accommodate him in your lineup.

Chad Johnson, Cincinnati Bengals at Buffalo Bills

Matchup
Games
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Johnson
3
5.33
78.7
0.00
Bills vs. Pos.
3
11.00
132.0
0.67

Several weeks ago, Johnson promised he won't celebrate a touchdown until the Bengals won a game. The vocal receiver hasn't had a chance to enjoy the spoils since he hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 3. He has underperformed in the first half of the season, and he hasn't been a stable source of production throughout the Bengals' struggles.

That trend could continue against a much-improved Bills' pass defense. Wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh has been dominating the play, and Johnson will also receive plenty of attention this week. Johnson hasn't been a confident fantasy play, but experienced fantasy players know that he can't be entirely ruled out. He's a No. 2 or No. 3 wideout this week, but be prepared to see some unnerving numbers.

Tight End - Weak Play

Chris Cooley, Washington Redskins at New York Jets

Matchup
Games
Rec/G
Rec Yards/G
Rec TDs/G
Cooley
4
4.25
41.3
0.75
Jets vs. Pos.
4
2.75
26.0
0.25

Despite hitting the end zone in three of his last four games, Cooley's yardage has been anything but stable. The most productive receiving option on the Redskins should be expected to have a big day against the Jets' ineffective pass defense, but the Jets have stalled tight end production in their last four games.

Cooley still figures to be a big part of the Washington passing game this week, and he has been targeted an average of 6.5 times over his last four games. He has also been sought 1.50 times per game inside the red zone in that span. Cooley is obviously a No. 1 option, but don't expect him to carry your team. He should still receive his fair share of catches.

Place Kicker - Weak Play

Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots

Matchup
Games
FGA/G
FG/G
XPA/G
XP/G
Pts/Game
Vinatieri
3
1.67
1.67
3.67
3.33
8.3
Patriots vs. Pos.
4
0.75
0.75
2.50
2.50
4.8

Vinatieri's owners might be scratching their heads over this listing. The Colts will more than likely score some points this coming week against the Patriots, but the New England defense has not accommodated kickers this season. Vinatieri's average of 8.3 kicker points per game is nothing to shy away from playing in your lineup. 

Despite benefiting from his offense, Vinatieri will not be expected to kick too many field goals as the Patriots have only allowed an average of 0.75 attempts, per game, from opposing kickers over their last four games. The Colts will most likely be passing to keep up with quarterback Tom Brady, so they might often fall short of field goal range. Vinatieri should still be a No. 1 kicker despite his matchup shortcomings this week.

Team Defense - Weak Play

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens

Matchup
Games
Pts/G
Yds/G
Sacks/G
Ints/G
Fum/G
3
12.7
254.7
1.7
1.00
0.33
Ravens Off.
3
15.0
290.3
1.00
0.33
0.67

Another atypical insertion into the Weak Play category, the Steelers defense has a few factors going against them this week. They allowed the inconsistent Denver Broncos to score 24 points and amass 324 total yards in Week 7; Pittsburgh's takeaway numbers have declined over the last month.

The first instinct here would be to argue against the effectiveness of the Ravens' offense, which has been the bane to their success while averaging just 15 points and 290.3 points per game in their last three outings. The return of quarterback Steve McNair (back) should help the Ravens' time of possession numbers, keeping the Steelers' defense on the field. Running back Willis McGahee has also scored a touchdown in his last two games and ran for 114 yards against his former team in the Buffalo Bills. The Ravens offense could surprise their doubters, and the Steelers defense should remain on your bench.

Facebook Twitter Google +

About Tim Heaney

Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.

During baseball and football season, he appears on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio on Thursdays and Sundays, and every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.

Don't miss these great reports....


What do you think? Sound off!



Recent KFFL releases