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Doug Farrar

Last-minute previews: The early games

Doug Farrar
Shutdown Corner

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Seattle at Chicago -- You have Matt Forte(notes) on your fantasy team? Start him, but not for his gains in the running game. The Seahawks have one of the best run defenses in the NFL (as do the Bears), but no back is more efficient and effective when it comes to pass-catching than Forte in Mike Martz's offensive system. The Bears will go deep, but they'll also look to dump it off with all their protection issues, and Forte is the primary safety valve. Seattle looked extremely vulnerable to screens against the Rams two weeks ago, but end Chris Clemons should have a monster day against the Bears' pathetic offensive line.

Miami at Green Bay -- The Packers will have Aaron Rodgers(notes) for this game, but they may not have the version of Rodgers that throws red zone touchdowns - according to Football Outsiders' numbers, no pass defense is better in the scoring area than the Dolphins. Mike Nolan's new-look defense is great against #1 and #2 receivers, but vulnerable to tight ends. With Jermichael Finley(notes) out for the season, look for Rodgers to try and find rookie Andrew Quarless(notes) in key situations, and for Mike McCarthy to exploit inside passing matchups in different ways.

San Diego at St. Louis -- There is no other place to begin here than to talk about San Diego's atrocious special teams. The Bolts have already allowed six touchdowns in just five games through their special teams units, and things don't look to get much better anytime soon. They're going through long-snappers like mad, and the Rams do have some good return options - most notable with receiver Danny Amendola(notes).

Baltimore at New England -- The Ravens finally have the passing game to challenge the Pats' young defense (or any other defense), and Ray Rice(notes) returned to his studly ways last week (for which this fantasy team owner is extremely grateful). The real problem with the Ravens these days is in a surprising area - on the defensive side of the ball. We already know that the pass defense is vulnerable, but Baltimore is allowing 4.2 yards per carry and the defense has given up four plays of 20 yards or more on the ground. Could it be a sleeper day for BenJarvus Green-Ellis(notes)?

New Orleans at Tampa Bay -- The Saints must find ways to create formation diversity without Reggie Bush(notes) and Pierre Thomas(notes) in the lineup. Without Bush, the bridge between the backfield and the receiver corps was broken, and the loss of Thomas takes away further screen and pass-blocking options. The Bucs are figuring out how to score points on offense, and young quarterback Josh Freeman(notes) appears to be relatively impervious to pressure, so it may be on Sean Payton and Drew Brees(notes) to avoid an upset in the Big Ex-Sombrero.

Detroit at New York Giants -- The Lions are running a ridiculous amount of shotgun - two out of every three snaps, according to Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders. That may be their only shot against a Giants defense that is playing waaaaay off the hook these days. It isn't just the sack totals - the G-Men are also playing extremely well against the pass and run.

Atlanta at Philadelphia -- With Kevin Kolb(notes) in the picture this week, expect the Falcons to use their under-the-radar pass rush to make the young quarterback move out of the pocket. Last week, end John Abraham(notes) abused Pro Bowl left tackle Joe Thomas(notes), and the Eagles' line has been a problem all season. King Dunlap(notes) will replace Jason Peters(notes) as the guy whose responsibility it is to keep Abraham under control. Ouch. Perhaps the most important injury situation to watch today is Michael Vick's.(notes) Will Carroll, the best in the business at this kind of thing, indicates that betting on Vick this week is a fool's errand.

Cleveland at Pittsburgh -- Oh, brother. While Colt McCoy(notes) prepares to undergo a debaclization that will make what Ndamukong Suh(notes) did to him in the Big 12 Championship look like a series of love taps, watch for a #1 receiver on the Steelers' roster to finally make an impact upon Ben Roethlisberger's(notes) return. To date, Hines Ward(notes) and Mike Wallace(notes) have each been targeted 19 times, and Wallace may be the best first target against Cleveland's very toasty secondary (seriously -- was safety help abolished in the state of Ohio?)

Kansas City at Houston -- Matt Schaub(notes), meet Brandon Flowers(notes). The Chiefs' cornerback is absolutely in For Real mode, and appears ready to take his place alongside Revis and Nnamdi on the short list of actual (you'll pardon the expression) shutdown corners. If the Chiefs had any sort of passing game to exploit that iffy Houston secondary, it would be smart to pick an upset - as it stands, we'll just say that Schaub should be very careful, and the Texans should probably run the ball a bit more this week.

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