Week eleven got off to somewhat of a sputtering start on Thursday night, as the Bills and Dolphins saw a sloppy game result in a Buffalo win. But fear not - the remaining games on week eleven's schedule should more than make up for a less than fulfilling Thursday night game.
What are the key match-ups that you should keep an eye on this weekend?
Top Match-ups to Watch
Green Bay’s “Next Man Up” vs. Detroit’s OL
For pretty much all of Clay Matthew’s career, the Packers have been in desperate need of a pass rushing threat to play along side him. Matthews has been a solid pass rusher, but one guy getting after the quarterback isn’t enough in a 3-4 defense. Green Bay drafted Nick Perry in an attempt to rectify that, but he was recently placed on IR, ending his season. That would be bad enough news for the Packers, and the reports coming out of Green Bay saying Matthews won’t be playing this weekend either make the situation even worse.
Unfortunately for the Packers, they’ll be playing against an offense with high potential that is starting to find their stride after a rough start to the season. Matt Stafford looks to have bounced back from his early season struggles, and although Calvin Johnson still continues to be tackled inside the five yard line, he’s racking up tons of yards and looking like the elite receiver he is again. Titus Young is making plays as a second receiving option, and even the Lions ground game is making an impact. For Green Bay, it’s pretty awful timing to be without a pass rush.
The Packers will be getting Frank Zombo back into the lineup, and the picked up free agent Vic So’to (who was with the team last year) this week. The good news for Green Bay is both line backers have some experience – both played last year against the Lions. The bad news is they have a combined six career sacks and neither one is a particularly good pass rusher. UDFA Dezman Moses may by the player that can make or break the defense’s chances this week. He’s seen very limited snaps, but he’s flashed ability to produce. Will the Tulane product be the surprise of the week?
Atlanta RB Jacquizz Rodgers vs. Arizona’s Run Defense
The Falcons looked good while cruising to a 8-0 start, but they weren’t without weakness. One of those problem areas has been their rushing game. Michael Turner has been a solid running back for years, but at this point he’s running on fumes. He lacks and explosion or burst, and it’s reduced Atlanta’s ground game to the “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense that was prevalent 15 years ago.
Because of the stress Roddy White and Julio Jones put defenses under, it hasn’t hurt the Falcons too much yet. But it’s inevitable that it will cause problems for Atlanta at some point. With Jones banged up and labeled a game time decision this weekend, that time could be nearing. The Falcons are presented with a good match-up on paper as Arizona has struggled in stopping the run all year long and the Cardinals are likely to be without Calais Campbell, their best run stopper.
The key for Atlanta may be whether or not they insist on giving Turner carries, or instead start turning to Jacquizz Rodgers. Rodgers is an infinitely bigger threat in the passing game, and has a chance to make defenders miss, whereas Turner is dead in the water when defenders close in. Rodgers brings an entirely new dimension to the Falcons offense, and he needs many more looks than he’s getting now.
There is such a large talent gap between these two teams that the success or failure of the Falcons rushing attack probably won’t make a big difference in the outcome of this game. However, this is a good chance for us to see what Atlanta’s ground game is going to look like for the rest of the season, and that’s likely to be a good predictor of how successful their season ultimately is.
Dallas OLB DeMarcus Ware vs. Cleveland LT Joe Thomas
At first glance a match-up between the Cowboys and Browns doesn’t look like a particularly entertaining one. Both teams have been their own worst enemy for most of the season, and unless there’s a big upset this is a game that Dallas should handle without too much trouble.
But don’t let the lackluster overall match-up allow you to overlook what may be the best individual match up of the week. It’s not every Sunday that we get to see on All Pro pass rusher take on an All Pro left tackle, but that’s exactly what we’ll have to look forward to in this game.
It has all the makings of a fantastic individual battle. DeMarcus Ware has sacked the quarterback 11 times so far this season, and Joe Thomas has allowed hardly any pressure all season. He’s been especially good over the last three or four weeks, meaning Ware will be facing one of his toughest tests of the season.
Rookie QBs Face-off in Washington
Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles took quite different paths to get to their role as starting quarterbacks. RGIII was crowned the starter before he ever donned a Washington uniform, and Foles had to wait until an under-performing Mike Vick went down with a concussion. Regardless, both guys find themselves as starters this weekend and both have quite a bit to play for.
For RGIII, it appears as though he may finally be getting the chance to play with wide receiver Pierre Garcon. Washington went out and paid Garcon big money to be the guy to stretch the field with Griffin, but Garcon just hasn’t been healthy enough to see that play pay off. The Redskins may not be pushing for a playoff berth, but it’s important that these two get the chance to develop their chemistry for 2013 and beyond.
In Foles’ case, the next several weeks may be some of the most important of his career. It’s looking increasingly likely that the Eagles will have a new coaching staff in 2013 – meaning that the guys that drafted and have made investments in Foles will probably be gone. He has to take advantage of the opportunity he’ll get over the next several weeks to put good performances on tape. If he does that, he could head into 2013 as the starter. If not, he may be looking for another team.
New England DE Chandler Jones
There’s going to be plenty of talk about the match up of quarterbacks in this game, and for good reason. Tom Brady is one of the greatest players of all time, and Andrew Luck looks like a player who could be destined for a similar level of greatness.
But the most important rookie in this game may be Chandler Jones. The Patriots defense has struggled mightily against the pass, and there’s a good chance they won’t be able to effectively cover Reggie Wayne. The key to slowing down the Colts’ passing game is likely to be whether or not a pass rush can get to Andrew Luck.
The good news for Jones and the rest of the Patriots is that he’s likely to be facing Anthony Castonzo more often than not. The second year tackle has struggled all season long, while Jones has for the most part had a stellar rookie season. If that doesn’t change, Luck could be in for a long day.
Fantasy Quick Hits
Cam Newton owners may be rewarded for their patience on Sunday. He’s got a favorable match-up against Tampa Bay and should be poised to bounce back from his less than stellar output last week.
Keep a close eye on Nick Foles. He’s got a great end of the season schedule, and if your QB1 is battling injury Foles might be a guy that can help you get through the play offs.
Jamal Charles has had a roller coaster of a season. He SHOULD have a good game against an average at best Bengal’s run defense…but will he?
CJ Spiller proved on Thursday night that he can handle carrying the load for Buffalo. Let’s hope Chan Gailey was paying attention. If he’s given that opportunity the rest of the season, it could single handedly carry someone to a fantasy championship.