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Matchup Meter: Cowboys' run defense will force Pats into the air


The Ravens defense has become a black hole for opposing passers this season. Last time out the victim was New York's Mark Sanchez (11 of 35, 30.5 QB Rating); the week before it was St. Louis' Sam Bradford (166 yards, 5.2 yards per attempt).

Through four games, opposing quarterbacks have completed just 52.7 percent of their passes against the Ravens, contributing to a collective QB Rating of 61.6 -- lowest in the league. Ed Reed and company simply show no mercy.

The Houston Texans, meanwhile, would love nothing more than to take some pressure off of a passing game that is expected to go another week without superstar wide receiver Andre Johnson (hamstring).

Fantasy owners can't afford to sit down Owen Daniels -- who ranks in the Top 10 among tight ends in catches, targets, yards and touchdowns -- but no other Texans receiver is advisable, nor is quarterback Matt Schaub, who had just 138 yards in the only other game this season in which he faced a Top 10 pass defense.

These fantasy stars might need a rest this week due to an unfavorable matchup on the horizon ...

New England's rushing attack vs. Dallas' defense

Not much has gone right for the Cowboys this year. An absent ground attack, a minus-4 in the turnover margin, and certainly no one in Big D is smiling about a 2-2 record. But if there is a silver lining around that blue star on the helmet it's that the Cowboys defense has held firm upfront. Dallas' No. 1-ranked run defense has allowed 61.8 yards per game and one touchdown. And Dallas is the only team not to have allowed a 20-yard run to an opposing back thus far.

Who to bench: BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who gained 136 yards last Sunday, was limited in practice this week by a toe injury. Fantasy owners can probably expect him to start ... they just can't expect a big day.

Philadelphia's receivers vs. Washington's defense

Things are unraveling in Philadelphia, and while it's hardly time to throw in the towel, last week's meltdown is something for fantasy owners to note. Now the Eagles must face an NFC East-leading Washington squad that has done well defending the pass. Only one opposing wide receiver (Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald) has found the end zone in Washington's four games, and opposing passers have registered a completion percentage of just 54.6.

Who to bench: Keep Mike Vick in the lineup, but for those fantasy owners deep at receiver, consider sitting DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. The two combined for just four catches and 34 yards in Philadelphia's first meeting against Washington last season.

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St. Louis' rushing attack vs. Green Bay's defense

Opposing backs have averaged just 3.8 yards per carry against the Packers, and just 75.8 yards per game (third fewest in the league). That includes shutting down some pretty good backs (Michael Turner, Matt Forte). Plus, as many points as Green Bay's offense puts up, it's unlikely the Rams will have the luxury of keeping the ball on the ground for long.

Who to bench: Fantasy owners have more than one reason to bench Steven Jackson. Not only are the Packers a formidable opponent, but Jackson has only touched the ball 27 times in three appearances this season. His quad is reportedly near 100 percent, but his potential this week is nowhere near what one would expect from a fringe No. 1 fantasy back.

These matchups suggest success is around the corner for a number of suspect fantasy starters ...

NY Giants' rushing attack vs. Buffalo's defense

The Bills may be the darlings of the AFC right now but it won't last if they continue to get run over by opponents. Buffalo allows 5.5 yards per carry (31st) and 138.4 yards per game (29th). In terms of yards per carry, Cedric Benson had his best day of the season against the Bills (5.5), and last week Philadelphia's Mike Vick and LeSean McCoy both gained 80-plus yards.

Expect a big day from: New York's offense needs a game like this (just 83.8 rushing yards per game through five weeks). With Brandon Jacobs still slowed by a bum knee, Ahmad Bradshaw may finally live up to his No. 2 fantasy back status.

Cincinnati's rushing attack vs. Indianapolis' defense

Go ahead, ask the obvious -- when are the Colts not to be taken advantage of? Fair enough. Even still, with fantasy owners leery of a Bengals ground attack that has been inconsistent and full of distractions, it's a good time to remind owners just how bad the Colts have been. No team has been run on more (an average of 35.4 attempts per game) and Indianapolis has given up 145.2 yards per game -- second only to St. Louis.

Expect a big day from: A decision regarding Cedric Benson's suspension is still weeks away. His third 100-yard game of the season is only days away.

NY Jets' passing attack vs. Miami's defense

The Dolphins rank second to last in both passing yards allowed (307.0) and opposing QB Rating (105.4). All four of the passers the team has faced have had big days, including Cleveland's Colt McCoy (210 yards, two touchdowns). And it goes beyond coverage -- the Dolphins have the third fewest sacks among NFL teams (six).

Expect a big day from: Mark Sanchez had a combined 472 yards in two meetings against the Dolphins last season (three touchdowns, no interceptions in the first meeting). Wide receiver Santonio Holmes and tight end Dustin Keller haven't given fantasy owners much hope so far, but both are bound for big games on Monday night (Keller has averaged 69.3 yards over his last three games against Miami, with a total of three touchdown catches).