Already reeling from injuries to Vincent Fuller and Cortland Finnegan, the Titans secondary took another hit on Sunday night when cornerback Nick Harper was knocked out of the game with a broken arm. While it’s unlikely that they can get much worse (being second to last in passing yards given up per game), this will slow down any future improvement by the unit. The Titans may find some defensive success before the season is over, but for the immediate future this is a premiere matchup for your QB’s, WR’s, and TE’s. You might not have Peyton Manning, but the Titans will make your QB look like him.
Let’s recap how the system works here: start with your basic ranking of players, and then consider -1 and +1 ratings to move the player to the bottom or top of their current tier. A -2 and +2 rating bumps them into the tier below or above their normal position. A new addition from last week is the team’s ranking in pass defense (measured in passing yards allowed per game) in parentheses — thanks, Drew, for the idea.
1 PM games
Houston (16th) @ Cincinnati (22nd)
The rankings are a little misleading here — just over 6 passing yards per game separates the pass defenses of Houston and Cincinnati. They are essentially even in most categories, with the notable exception of Cincinnati’s ability to pressure the QB (14.0 sacks compared to just 6.0 sacks for Houston). This is slightly worrying for the Texans, given Schaub’s fragility — but if he has time to stand and throw, expect success. Depending on which Leon Hall shows up, Andre Johnson may have a harder time than usual, but Hall isn’t Revis or Asomugha, and he has occasionally been abused. Carson Palmer took advantage of a below-average Ravens pass defense last week, and the Texans defense shouldn’t pose much more of a problem. Both defenses are above average in suppressing passing TD’s, but that may be an early season aberration.
Detroit (27th) @ Green Bay (17th)
Amazingly, Daunte Culpepper threw for 282 yards against the Pittsburgh defense. Unfortunately for Calvin Johnson owners, the 6’5″ Megatron of Speed, Muscle, Agility, and Hurt Knees™ left the game in the 1st quarter and has been missing practice this week. The Detroit passing game will be a question mark against any defense until Stafford and Johnson are both healthy. Play CJ at your own risk — he will likely be a gametime decision. Stafford has returned to practice but give him a week before you rely on him. Pettigrew is a safer option as he’s less likely to be hurt by Culpepper’s presence. Aaron Rodgers, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, and Jermichael Finley are all excellent plays this week as the Packers may finally be able to provide some pass protection for Rodgers to set and throw. I particularly like Jennings’ chances of finally busting some big plays coming off the bye week.
Baltimore (26th) @ Minnesota (18th)
Seems like a old-school, hard-hitting, 3 yards and a cloud of dust kind of game right? Well, given the excellent run defense units on both sides of the ball, don’t be surprised if teams are forced to throw the ball — and both Favre and Flacco aren’t scared of throwing downfield (or to the wrong team! Oops, sorry Brett!). If the defensive lines succeed in stuffing the run, you may see AP and Rice used in designed screen pass plays to get them past the line of scrimmage. Upgrade both pass offenses this week, but keep an eye on Derrick Mason’s role if the Vikings shift defensive coverage his way. Shiancoe continues to get red zone targets.
New York Giants (1st) @ New Orleans (11th)
I admit, I’m having a hard time calling this one. New York has been beyond dominant in pass defense. The rest of the league ranges from 303 passing yards allowed per game (ARI) to 165 passing yards allowed per game (CAR) — the Giants lop another 60 yards off the second best total, giving up just 105 passing yards per game. But this is Drew Brees of the 6 TD season opener, Drew Brees of the 2 subpar weeks and a bye week to get pissed and fix the problems. Irresistable force vs immovable object. If I have to make a guess, I can see the Saints having success of a sort, but don’t expect Brees to carve up the Giants, and a disaster is possible. If you’ve got a playable backup with a nice matchup, it’s worth sitting your Saints. Conversely, the Saints rate as above average on pass defense, but I’m not sure I believe it yet. Keep in mind Kevin Boss is dinged up with an ankle injury, so don’t rely on him this week even if he plays.
Cleveland (10th) @ Pittsburgh (14th)
Cleveland’s pass rating gets a big push from the snoozefest with Buffalo, boosting them into the upper third of the league. Pittsburgh, on the other hand, has seen its pass defense suffer the last few weeks, but Polamalu’s likely return means you should downgrade all the Browns from bad plays to really bad plays. Losing DE Aaron Smith for the season will hurt Pittsburgh’s ability to pressure the QB, but that may not matter this week. Hold on to Massaquoi (and Derek Anderson in 2 QB leagues), but don’t start them until the situation settles. Roethlisberger, Holmes, Ward, and Miller are all good plays — the Cleveland defense won’t look nearly as good without Trent Edwards helping them. Mendenhall’s emergence means the Steelers don’t have to throw quite as much; downgrade Mike Wallace a bit.
Carolina (2nd) @ Tampa Bay (21st)
Carolina’s defense is a bit of an odd-ball. The Panther’s are allowing a 68.8% completion rate (30th), but only 166 passing yards a game (2nd). Fortunately, you shouldn’t be considering any of the Bucs, with the exception of….wait for it….Kellen Winslow! That’s right, the guy I said to bench last week (in my defense, I rated him -2 compared to the rest of TB at -5). Antonio Gates he’s not, but if you’re going to roll the dice at TE, it’s hard to argue with the guy who dropped 100+ yards and 2 TD’s against the Eagles. Tampa Bay got burned badly by Eagles passing attack, so if you’re stuck don’t feel too bad about starting Delhomme, and I guarantee Steve Smith (CAR) will be even better than DeSean Jackson was last week. Stone cold lock, lead pipe lock, early morning sports radio forced camaraderie YOU CAN TAKE IT TO THE BANK. No really, he’ll be better than DeSean.
Kansas City (29th) @ Washington (3rd)
Oddly, Washington is actually allowing a higher completion percentage than Kansas City (60.7% vs. 56.1%), but is also giving up almost 100 fewer passing yards per game (171.2 vs. 270.0). Jason Campbell is a much, much better fantasy QB than he is a real life QB, but that’s fine for our purposes (because our purpose is playing fantasy football!). Great matchup to play Campbell as a bye week fill-in. Santana Moss will benefit as well. Cooley disappeared last week but he’s a must start against the Chiefs. Don’t downgrade Cassel, Bowe, or Sean Ryan too much — the Redskins limit yardage and big plays, but I think Cassel is smart enough to take what’s there.
St. Louis (25th) @ Jacksonville (30th)
Barring some sort of gentleman’s agreement in which the game is decided by a Steven Jackson and Maurice Jones-Drew tetherball match (edge: S-Jax, MJD is too short), this should be a nice week for both pass offenses. The Jaguar’s pass defense is particularly horrible; unfortunately, the only Ram good enough to take advantage of it is Donnie Avery. The Jaguars provide some good plays as well, with Garrard, Holt, and Sims-Walker (assuming he’s been a good boy this week) all startable. Marcedes Lewis remains a low-risk, low-reward option at TE — cross your fingers for a TD to go with his 40-60 yards.
STL: Avery +2
JAC: Garrard +2, Sims-Walker +2, Holt +2, Lewis +1
4 PM games
Arizona (32nd) @ Seattle (9th)
Seattle allows a high completion rate (65.6%) but they are limiting yardage and touchdowns. I expect that to change — the Arizona WR’s are too physically gifted not to turn catches into big plays. The Seahawks (14.0 sacks) may be able to pressure Warner, so keep expectations in check. After facing the Swiss-cheese Jacksonsville secondary, Hasselbeck gets another nice matchup. Upgrade Hasselbeck, Burleson, Houshmandzadeh, and Carlson, especially if Seattle has to throw to keep pace with Arizona’s offense — just look at what Houston did against the Jags last week.
Philadelphia (4th) @ Oakland (15th)
The Eagles should dominate this game, but I wouldn’t assume that means a run-heavy attack, as they will try to keep Westbrook and McCoy healthy. After DeSean Jackson’s near no-show last week, the Asomugha effect could be cause for concern, but DeS-Jax is too talented to bench. Grab Maclin if he’s available, but don’t start him (see: Mohamed Massaquoi). Zach Miller showed enough in Week 5 to consider him as a bye-week fill in again, but I still don’t recommend it against the Eagles despite Kellen Winslow’s performance. Chaz Schilens just avoided being required to legally change his name to Chaz Schilens(foot)…keep an eye on him. Not for your team. Just because it’s fun.
Tennessee (31st) @ New England (13th)
Page up. All the way. Read the intro. Start ALL your Patriots. Brady, Moss, Welker…they’re all getting yards and touchdowns. I think Ben Coates might even get a TD in this game somehow. Ben Watson is a decent play, but he doesn’t get that many looks so if Brady throws downfield all game, he may not be that productive. Last week Orton exposed the Pats defense…but I wouldn’t feel great about starting Kerry Collins. Nate Washington, Justin Gage, and Scaife are all risky plays this week.
Buffalo (6th) @ New York Jets (8th)
Buffalo shut down Cleveland’s passing game (ahem) in Week 5. The Jets defense didn’t dominate on Monday night like they have been, but Miami’s offense was a bad matchup for them. Downgrade both passing offenses — at this point, you shouldn’t be starting any of the Bills if at all possible, and while the addition of Braylon Edwards looks to improve the Jets’ big play ability, this isn’t the week to test it out. Legit corners on both defenses means interceptions and low yardage, and Mark Sanchez won’t even get a Hispanic tribute before the game. Don’t expect Clowney to lead the Jets in receiving yardage again.
8 PM game
Chicago (20th) @ Atlanta (23rd)
I’m expecting a bit of a shootout in this one. Both secondaries have limited passing touchdowns, Chicago having given up 4 in 4 games, and Atlanta 3 in 4 games, but both give up plenty of yardage. Upgrade both offenses, especially the Falcons as they build on their 45-10 romp over the prematurely-praised 49er defense. Ryan relied heavily on Roddy White last week, so watch for Gonzalez to be targeted a few more times. Hester should be healthy after the bye week giving Cutler a full arsenal. Keep an eye on Olsen — he has underwhelmed but is too good to be ignored (and Cutler wasn’t afraid of throwing to Scheffler in Denver). Knox remains a good play in return yardage leagues.
Denver (5th) @ San Diego (12th)
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Denver let off the gas after an emotional Sunday night win over New England. Nevertheless, until this defense falters, you have to downgrade the San Diego starters a bit. Rivers and Vincent Jackson can be benched if you have comparable options, but don’t go overboard; Gates remains a must start unless you drafted 2 top TE’s in a 1 TE league (and you should trade one of them immediately). Orton, Brandon Marshall, and Eddie Royal are safe starts — the SD corners can be picked on. Scheffler is an option as a bye week fill in.
DEN: Orton 0, Marshall +1, Royal 0, Scheffler 0
SD: Rivers -1, Jackson -1, Chambers -2, Gates 0