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Doug Farrar

Early game matchups: Can the Dolphins stop Chris Johnson?

Doug Farrar
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Here's a quick-hit look at specific matchups that could affect today's most interesting early games, through the eyes of stats and sabermetrics...

New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills: In the Battle of Dueling 81s, the trends favor the Bills by a huge margin. Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics have Buffalo's defense as the NFL's best against #1 receivers. The Bills allow only 50.3 yards per game to the top guys. New England's young secondary is much more vulnerable, allowing 67.4 yards per game to #1 wideouts and ranking 30th in Defensive DVOA against those top guys. The mitigating factor, of course, is how Randy Moss(notes) responds to a week in which his overall effort was repeatedly challenged. Moss was vindicated by experts and teammates, but he may be out to prove a point.

Arizona Cardinals at Detroit Lions: Is there a single matchup that favors the Lions in this game? Well, yes. While the Pats are 30th against #1 receivers, the Cards are 31st. If there's a day for Calvin Johnson(notes) to go off, it would be today. That might be bad news for an Arizona squad still trying to put together consistent week-to-week-performances.

Miami Dolphins at Tennessee Titans: Jason Taylor(notes) and Joey Porter(notes) are the big names on the Dolphins' defense, but Randy Starks(notes) and Cameron Wake(notes) are the team's most effective sackmasters. They're ones to watch no matter who goes at quarterback for Tennessee (Vince Young(notes) is active and will start). The Titans' predominant threat is running back Chris Johnson, but few defenses are better-equipped to stop him from going off. The Titans lead the NFL in percentage of rushing yards over ten yards out of the line of scrimmage, but only the Cincinnati Bengals allow a lower percentage of those downfield ground yards.

Atlanta Falcons at New York Jets: Matt Ryan(notes) and Michael Turner(notes) will play today, but don't expect much from Turner or any of his running mates. Turner likes to run up the middle with power. Despite the loss of mammoth nose tackle Kris Jenkins(notes), the Jets are best against the inside run allowing just 3.5 yards per carry in attempts over center. Of course, the Falcons will also want to make plans not involving Roddy White(notes), who will be blanketed by Darrelle Revis(notes) today. 'Nuff said.

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