Matchup Meter: Saints' defense a welcome sight for opposing rushers
One week after saving Green Bay from Seattle's relentless pass rush, Cedric Benson faces his most favorable matchup to date. On Sunday the Packers host a Saints defense ranked dead last against the run, having allowed nearly 200 more yards on the ground than any other unit.
New Orleans surrendered 96 yards to unproven Alfred Morris in Week 1, allowed DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart to combine for 120 yards (on 25 carries) in Week 2 and gave struggling Jamaal Charles a boost last week (233 yards).
Every year there is one NFL run defense fantasy owners need to exploit, and the Saints are that defense for 2012.
• Number to know: 215.0 -- Number of rushing yards the Saints give up per game. Last year the league's lowest ranked run defense allowed 156.1 yards per game.
• Expect a big day from: Benson is still a fringe No. 2 running back for fantasy owners but he belongs in the lineup this week. In a game expected to feature plenty of passing, Mike McCarthy will still get his back close to 20 touches.
The Jets' defense thrives on the play of its outstanding cornerbacks, but the loss of Darrelle Revis (torn ACL) is a serious blow to the unit, and replacement Kyle Wilson is no Revis. On top of that, the Jets pass rush does not figure to help the secondary much; the team has just three sacks this season -- tied for 30th.
• Number to know: 275 -- Number of yards New York allowed to Pittsburgh receivers in Week 2. The Steelers were the only opponent New York has faced with a solid receiving corps, and Pittsburgh got the best of the Jets that afternoon (two passing scores, three passing plays of 25 or more yards).
• Expect a big day from: Michael Crabtree is the 49ers' leading receiver but he's hardly been a fantasy darling (9.6 yards per reception, no touchdowns). Crabtree has a chance to turn things around on Sunday.
New England's pass defense is still an area of concern. A year ago the Patriots ranked 31st in passing yards allowed; through three games they rank in the bottom half of the league in yards allowed and opposing Quarterback Rating. And the competition has been suspect: Jake Locker, Kevin Kolb and Joe Flacco.
• Number to know: 66.1 -- The average completion percentage for opposing passers this season, 26th in the NFL.
• Expect a big day from: In two games against New England last year Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 56 of 86 passes (65.1 percent) with four touchdown passes and an average of 338 yards. He threw a ton of interceptions in those games, but fantasy owners will take the picks if Fitzpatrick can duplicate the yards and touchdowns.
Don't let the numbers fool you. Yes, the Jaguars have allowed the third-most rushing yards of any team entering this week, and yes, they've allowed 4.4 yards per carry and five rushing scores. They also have played against Adrian Peterson and the Texans' combo of Arian Foster and Ben Tate. When Jacksonville faced Donald Brown last week it was a different story (62 yards on 18 carries).
• Number to know: 2.5 -- The Bengals' average number yards per carry in last season's win over the Jaguars. Cedric Benson gained just 53 yards on 24 carries (2.2).
• Who to bench: So far this season BenJarvus Green-Ellis has not been the same player he was for New England, and he hasn't adequately filled Benson's shoes. Still, fantasy owners continue to view him as a No. 2 back. Not this week.
The Bears have made life miserable on opposing passers, including Andrew Luck (52.9 QB Rating), Aaron Rodgers (season-low 219 yards) and Sam Bradford (18 of 35 passing). Plus, the Bears' secondary -- led by Tim Jennings -- has collected six interceptions.
• Number to know: 14 -- Chicago's sack count after three weeks -- most in the NFL.
• Who to bench: Tony Romo makes plays on the run, but fans also understand he sometimes chokes when the heat is turned up. Wide receiver Dez Bryant has struggled so far this season, as has Jason Witten (eight catches, no touchdowns). Fantasy owners may want to consider benching any of those three players if they have another option to turn to.
The Buccaneers' run defense is legitimate. DeMarco Murray gained just 38 yards (18 carries) last week, and in Week 1 the Panthers managed just 10 yards on 13 carries. Tampa Bay ranks first in the league in rushing yards allowed (142) and yards allowed per carry (2.3).
• Number to know: 47.3 -- The number of rushing yards the Buccaneers have allowed opponents this season.
• Who to bench: Alfred Morris ranks ninth in rushing and is tied for the league lead in rushing touchdowns (three). But this week will challenge the rookie, and the results may not be pretty. The Buccaneers could also limit Robert Griffin III's contributions on the ground; fellow scramblers Cam Newton and Tony Romo gained just four and one yard rushing, respectively, in games against Tampa Bay this season.