Week six saw teams across the league lose big-name players to devastating, season ending injuries. While it's unlikely that those lost contributions will be entirely replaced by their back-ups, each team will be looking to those untested players to bring a high level of play to the field during week seven and beyond.
Who will step up and help their team out of a tough spot in week seven?
Match-Ups to Watch
Baltimore DBs vs. Houston WR Andre Johnson
After losing Ray Lewis and Ladarius Webb in the same game, the Ravens defense is clearly in a vulnerable position heading into their game against Houston. And while Ravens fans will of course miss the presence of Lewis in their front seven, the loss of Webb is likely the one that’s going to hurt the most.
To replace Webb second year corner Jimmy Smith. Smith was a first round draft pick last year, so the Ravens feel he has the potential to be a starting quality corner in the league. But he has yet to show it, and struggled mightily in the playing time he got last week after Webb went down.
To make things worse for Baltimore, Smith’s first full length test of the year will be against Andre Johnson and the Texans. Whether it’s Smith or Cary Williams that ends up seeing the most of Johnson in coverage, it’s not likely to end well for the Ravens. Johnson represents a huge mismatch on both sides of the Ravens’ defense, and its one Matt Schaub should look to exploit early and often.
Washington LT Trent Williams vs. New York DE Jason Pierre-Paul
Keeping Robert Griffin III healthy might just be the number one priority for the Redskins every week. For a quarterback with his playing style, obviously that means making sure he can run the ball effectively but still slide or get out of bounds when he’s gained the yards he can. But even with a mobile quarterback, it’s also important to make sure he has all the time in the pocket that he needs to move the ball through the air.
A big chunk of that responsibility will fall to left tackle Trent Williams. For the majority of the game, it’s likely that Williams will be blocking Osi Umenyiora. Umenyiora was once one of the better defensive ends in the game, but at this point in their respective careers, Williams should be able to handle him without too much trouble.
The Giants have plenty of pass rushing weapons, however, and none are better than Jason Pierre-Paul. JPP moves all over the field and even if he’s not there every snap, Williams will have to contain him at some point during the game. Keeping RGIII healthy in week seven will require keeping JPP out of the back field. Will Williams be up to the task?
St. Louis LT Wayne Hunter vs. Green Bay OLB Clay Matthews
The Rams have been one of the more surprising stories of the season so far. Sure, they’re not going to be contending for a Super Bowl win this year, but the fact that a .500 record is a distinct possibility is a big shock to many who follow the team. A victory over Green Bay would be the biggest surprise of the season for St. Louis, and it’ll all start with how left tackle Wayne Hunter handles Clay Matthews.
Hunter’s move to left tackle after getting released by the Jets hasn’t been the train wreck many thought it would be, but it hasn’t been smooth either. Hunter clearly isn’t suited to be a left tackle in the NFL and he’s struggled in pass protection all season.
That’s not likely to improve as he tries to deal with Matthews on Sunday. Matthews already has nine sacks this season and has looked unstoppable at times. It’s going to be a massive test for Hunter, and one that could spell disaster for the Rams if he doesn’t play well.
Every season, defensive rookies fall to the back of the public’s mind as offensive play makers monopolize time on the high light reels. What defensive rookies could have big games this week?
Green Bay DB Casey Hayward
On the defensive side of the ball, there might not be a more impressive rookie than Casey Hayward. Brought to Green Bay to help improve an awful pass defense, he’s seen most of his time this season covering the opposing slot receiver.
He hasn’t seen as much action as some other rookies, he’s made plenty of plays while he’s on the field. He’s intercepted three passes and broken up three more, and although he’s been tested deep he has yet to get burned.
Matched up against the Rams this week, Hayward could get the chance to make some more big plays. Sam Bradford has looked like a different player in 2012, but if the Packers are able to get a lead and harass him, Hayward could look to take advantage of a flustered young quarterback.
Tennessee DT Mike Martin
When the Titans drafted Mike Martin, he was pegged as an over achieving player who already physically maxed out. He projected to be a rotational player at best, and for the first portion of the season that was his role, and it was a role he exceeded at.
When Jurell Casey went down in week six, Martin saw his role expanded to being an every down player, and he thrived in that position. He recorded six tackles and 1 pressure and was a big factor in holding the Steelers to just 56 yards rushing.
With the health of his fellow defensive linemen still questionable, the window is open for Martin to make a similar impact as the Titans travel to Buffalo. His playing time should be expanded for the second straight week, and Tennessee will hope the result will be the same as well.
New England DE Chandler Jones
When Chandler Jones began his “rise” up draft boards in the spring, many people were more than a little surprised. That same group has to be entirely flabbergasted now, as Jones has been the best defensive rookie in 2012, and perhaps the best rookie period, not counting RGIII.
He made his NFL debut abusing Tennessee tackle Michael Roos, and he hasn’t looked back sense. He’s already got five sacks, and if he picks up the pace just a little he’ll have a chance to set the record for most sacks by a rookie.
This week gives him the opportunity to go up against on of the league’s most inept offenses. Not withstanding last weeks game against the Colts, the Jets haven’t gotten anything going offensively and Jones should be able to capitialize on a offensive line that hasn’t been great at protecting Mark Sanchez.
Fantasy Quick Hits
- Don’t get carried away and think Doug Martin was sharing carries with LeGarrette Blount last week. Martin did all the heavy lifting and Blount only saw action with the game was in garbage time. Martin owners shouldn’t panic, and Blount isn’t a guy who should be owned except in the very deepest of leagues.
- Is Chris Johnson back? He’s not ever going to be the guy we saw when he went to 2000 yards, but he’s looked somewhat effective over the last few games. He’s eclipsed 100 yards in two of his last three games and has a good match-up with a bad run defense this week in Buffalo.
- Josh Gordon looks to be a legit receiver, but I’m skeptical of his fantasy value. He’s a deep threat guy who can put up big numbers one week, and then do absolutely nothing the next. He’ll be a risky play until his game becomes more well rounded.
- Ahmad Bradshaw’s injury problems seem to be creeping up again. He’s the hottest back in the league, but he may not be able to keep up that pace much longer. He’s a definite sell high candidate this week.