There are a few marquee matchups that have our attention and interest piqued. Most eyes will be spying action in the East, as perhaps the four most intriguing matchups will be played east of the Mississippi.
Hopefully, the weight of our collective gaze on Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Miami and New York will not force this landmass to tip. The next-best matchup is in Georgia, so add a few more eyeballs and vocal adrenaline to the east.
For fantasy purposes, one of the most intriguing matchups occurs in Oakland, where the Raiders host the Texans. I’m still shaking my head too.
Let’s lock it up and hunker down for another rendition of "Lineup Calls." This time out, I’m spying team defense.
Top 5 Defenses/Special Teams
(other than New York Jets, Baltimore, Green Bay and Pittsburgh)
Cincinnati at Cleveland
I suspect that the Bengals are well aware of who Peyton Hillis is following his 180 total yards of offense in Week 3. The Cincinnati pass defense rebounded nicely from a terrible opener against Tom Brady. Leon Hall and the Bengals obliterated the vaunted Baltimore passing attack before taking advantage of a strong matchup against Carolina. Seneca Wallace will need support from Hillis to find any success downfield. The Bengals rank 13th against the run at 104.7 yards per game with one touchdown scored.
New Orleans vs. Carolina
I don’t know that I need to offer a comprehensive analysis here. I believe that we’ll see a better day out of DeAngelo Williams that may open up some space downfield for the frustrated Steve Smith. Still, I expect to see the Saints dial up some different defensive looks to frustrate Jimmy Clausen and force errors downfield.
Chicago at New York Giants
The Bears rank first in the running game, having allowed 39.7 yards per game (three touchdowns, including one by Aaron Rodgers). Chicago is tied for 10th in total defense (17 points allowed per game) with eight turnovers and two sacks. Issues on the offensive line portend to a big day for Julius Peppers. Even if Peppers doesn’t get the sack, the pressure on Manning could prove disastrous.
San Diego vs. Arizona
The Chargers are tied for 18th in total defense following last week’s heroics by the Seahawks. The defense will play without Larry English (surgery), and Shawne Merriman (ongoing calf issue) is unlikely to go. The Arizona passing game has been a rocky road, and Derek Anderson takes to the field without Steve Breaston, who underwent knee surgery. The running game will have its spots, as will Larry Fitzgerald, but I’m not optimistic that we see a huge performance in San Diego. The Cardinals are averaging fewer than 200 passing yards through three weeks, and the line has allowed six sacks (Anderson has committed four turnovers).
Philadelphia vs. Washington
It’s the battle of the day, and I’ve seen projections for the offensive output of both sides run the gamut. Ultimately, it comes down to the Redskins’ ability to complete their drives, something that has been lacking to date. I anticipate that we see some success from Donovan McNabb with Santana Moss in the downfield passing game, but that the scoring is done by Graham Gano. The Eagles will be able to get to McNabb, thereby forcing errant throws and scrambles, where the big turnover(s) may occur.
Atlanta vs. San Francisco
The Atlanta defense ranks sixth in total defense and has created problems for opposing quarterbacks in the secondary. The addition of Dunta Robinson has shored up the secondary, and the unit has intercepted six passes while allowing three passing touchdowns. The change at offensive coordinator in San Francisco may help create a spark for Alex Smith and the passing game. I’m not so sure that it happens immediately in a tough road test.
Seattle at St. Louis/St. Louis vs. Seattle
The Seahawks and Rams both rank in the upper-half of the league in total defense right now (19 and 16.3 points allowed per game, respectively). Matt Hasselbeck and Sam Bradford have excelled in spots, but both have obviously had their share of miscues and misfires along the way. I’m interested to watch this contest, while keeping my head on a swivel to catch those two huge games on the East Coast. Ultimately, it could become a field goal contest.
Tennessee vs. Denver
The Titans handed it to the Giants in Week 3, and after watching them pressure Eli Manning constantly and bring the proverbial wood against receivers in the open field, I’m not discounting Tennessee altogether. It could become the Matt Prater show before it’s all over. However, I do believe that Kyle Orton will be able to stretch the field with his myriad receiving options. Brandon Lloyd has become a legitimate deep ball threat, while Jabar Gaffney and Eddie Royal pile up receptions. Demaryius Thomas is the wild card in the mix. If he’s ready to go, this unit will pile up yardage (Manning passed for 386 yards last week).
Miami vs. New England
The Dolphins are currently tied for 10th in total defense, having allowed 17 points per game. Opposing rushers have averaged 67.7 yards per game. That average includes a monster 145-yard effort from Adrian Peterson. It all comes down to Tom Brady getting it going in the passing game. The Dolphins rank ninth in pass defense through three games, allowing 193.3 yards and four touchdowns with three interceptions. You can shut down the displaced and often-times confusing Buffalo offense and the discombobulated Minnesota passing attack, but Mark Sanchez chewed up the field in Week 3. Brady does the same.