Each Sunday, all eyes are fixed on NFL action, and we spent countless hours before and after games making predictions and then dissecting the good, bad and ugly in terms of statistics, missed opportunities and coaching blunders.
This week, fans will inch forward a little bit in their chairs to watch the action on defense. Will this past week’s discussion about “big hits” alter the way teams play? How closely will officials be calling games? Will we see an ejection?
For fantasy purposes, I’m curious to watch how teams use the middle of the field on offense and how/if defensive schemes alter. Do we see more arm-tackle attempts leading to big gains?
That remains to be seen. We’ll watch it play out this weekend.
Top 5 Defenses/Special Teams
(other than Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens and Green Bay Packers)
Kansas City vs. Jacksonville
The Jaguars had several strong showings behind David Garrard in recent weeks, but Garrard and backup Trent Edwards were both injured against the Titans. That puts Todd Bouman front and center for the Jaguars, and that’s a dangerous proposition. The Chiefs allow nearly 250 passing yards per game, but cede just 1.2 passing touchdowns per game (2.4 sacks per contest).
St. Louis at Tampa Bay
St. Louis rebounded from a pathetic Week 5 showing against Detroit to upend San Diego at home in Week 6. As such, I’m optimistic that Steve Spagnuolo’s crew travels well to slow the 29th-ranked Tampa Bay offense (16 points per game). The Buccaneers have yielded 11 sacks and have no running game.
Tennessee vs. Philadelphia
The Titans have the league’s top pass rush (24 sacks), and much has been written about the Eagles’ offensive line woes. The battle in the interior is undoubtedly the key to this game. If Kolb can’t get comfortable in the pocket, it could be a long day for the Philadelphia offense.
San Francisco at Carolina
As I evaluated this game, I found myself pulling the 49ers back and forth between a top-five choice and a flop candidate. The Panthers come back out of the bye week with wide receiver Steve Smith back in tow. Matt Moore is back under center, replacing rookie Jimmy Clausen with the hope of recapturing some of last season’s heroics. I don’t necessarily believe that the Panthers light up the scoreboard. However, this matchup concerns me.
New Orleans vs. Cleveland
Colt McCoy acquitted himself nicely in his first start against the Steelers. He took care of the ball, didn’t force throws and did find the end zone. I expect the aggressive New Orleans defense to get after McCoy this weekend. The Saints rank seventh in pass defense (195.6 yards and one touchdown per game) despite running out a banged-up secondary. Perhaps the return of Darren Sharper can help force the issue and induce errant throws from the rookie.
Denver vs. Oakland
The Raiders are set to start a banged-up Jason Campbell, who has been shaky at best. If he can’t go (or struggles), Kyle Boller slides into the lineup. Either way, Michael Bush (and Darren McFadden) will find running room sparse.
Carolina vs. San Francisco
The 49ers ranked as one of the most actively traded units on the waiver wire this week, as owners anticipated big returns against Matt Moore and the Panthers. However, I would be remiss if I failed to recommend a second glance at the Panther. The Panthers rank 20th in total defense (fifth against the pass), while the 49ers rank 30th in total offense (15.5 points per game).
San Diego vs. New England
San Diego ranks first in pass defense and sixth in run defense, but terrible special teams work has pushed them to a record of 2-4. The Patriots come into San Diego with the top-ranked offense in the game, and Tom Brady’s efficiency limits this unit’s upside. The biggest question is whether the New England offensive line will be able to slow the San Diego pass rush (21 sacks).
Dallas vs. New York Giants
The Giants have established balance with Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs on the ground and Eli Manning’s myriad of downfield targets. The Cowboys are tied for 21st in total defense, having allowed at least 24 points in four straight games. More importantly, this unit has generated only five turnovers. Might we see a shootout in this one?