The guys here at Playbook put our heads together and decided to try something a bit different this week in hopes to keep all you readers on your toes. In honor of Halloween this weekend, we are going to give you some players, teams, or matchups that really scare us this week. From all the tape we’ve watched so far this week we have started to notice things and wanted to bring them to your attention.
- The Arizona rushing attack is going to really struggle this week. First off Beanie Wells could potentially not play and even if he does, he will be playing on a banged up knee. Last week against a pretty good Steelers run D, Wells averaged just less than four yards a carry. Not too bad against a fairly stout defense. However, he had his only real success on two runs just over 10 yards. Both runs came on cut-backs, something the Steelers have been susceptible to all year. We don’t anticipate the Ravens will allow that to happen this week. If a starter typically cannot go, his backup usually becomes a fantasy starter. Alfonso Smith will be the starter in the backfield, but we would avoid him at all costs.
- Maurice Jones-Drew has 159 touches this season (148 carries, 11 catches), good for 2nd most in the league behind Matt Forte’s 162 touches (124 carries, 38 catches). Looking away from the fantasy aspect for a moment, that is a lot of touches for a guy who has just had minor knee surgery before the season. The lack of a passing game has really put a lot of reliance on MJD. Teams are able to key on stopping the run (more than previous years) which means MJD has less room to run and is taking more of a pounding. His matchup this week is against a Texans run D that was able to limit an impressive Raiders rushing attack. With no real threat of a passing game, the Texans LBs were able to get downhill quickly. We expect a lot of the same this weekend and anticipate MJD should struggle to breakout.
- Dallas Clark really scares us. He has been the one player who has come way down to earth with the injury to Peyton Manning. There is a huge list of things that have changed from the Clark of last year to this year, but the biggest ones we have seen is his blocking frequency and Painter’s ability to throw the ball in the middle of the field. Without Manning back controlling the play-calling and adjusting the blocking schemes at the line of scrimmage, Curtis Painter is sitting in the pocket a lot longer than Manning used to. The Colts’ OL is not particularly dominant and they have needed Clark to stay in. In the passing game, Clark excelled up the middle of the field in the seams. Manning was deadly accurate in putting the ball in catchable spots. Painter simply does not have the confidence to throw the ball with that same vigor.
- Even though we get access to the same tape the coaches see, we still cannot figure out the Redskins rushing mindset. Simply put, there is no way to sort it out. With that being said, we have liked Ryan Torain the most from what we have seen on film. He is a bigger guy and gets downhill quickly after his cut is made. Roy Helu is a smaller back and brings an elusiveness that Torain does not possess. In the past, Mike Shanahan has preferred backs that excel at making one cut and getting downhill, something Torain possesses. If we were forced to pick a guy we would say Torain simply because he has done produced in the past, but proceed with caution.
- The combination of a shoddy Denver pass defense combined with the success the Lions have been having throwing the ball, we worry about the attention the middle of the field will get this week. The emergence of Brandon Pettigrew has been a huge asset to the Lions passing attack. He has an ability to stretch the middle of the field and it has helped Calvin Johnson avoid double teams. The Broncos pass defense is porous to say the least. Their secondary, minus Champ Bailey, struggles all over the field. The LBs are not poor in coverage, but we do not think that the Safeties or LBs have enough ability to slow down Pettigrew. His involvement in the offense makes him very difficult to shut down completely in a game. We anticipate that he will have another good game this week.
- The New England passing defense will be tested this week. The Patriots have definitely improved since the first three weeks, but we think the Steelers Offense could cause them problems. The player this centers around is Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben has finally started to come into his usual form. His underneath accuracy has really started to improve and it’s trickled down to everything else he does. He is extending plays more and getting the ball down the field because of it. The Steelers have enough athletes on the outside to keep the Patriots secondary backed off which will provide them with more space underneath. The Patriots are a team that wants to limit big plays, so their blitzing should be minimized and the Steelers should have time to get the ball out efficiently.
- Philip Rivers has been scaring us with his shoddy play thus far. From what we have seen on film, he just has not seemed in sync with the offense. We think the biggest problem has been the injury to Antonio Gates. Sure everyone knows Gates would be great for Rivers to have just because he is a great talent, but we really believe he makes the San Diego offense run at a high level. Having a player that can stretch the field in the middle and create matchup problems is a challenge for any defense to stop. As Gates continues to get healthy we think that his mere presence will help Rivers get back on track.
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