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Matchup Meter: Offenses for Colts, Dolphins look for chicken soup


For all the ups and downs the winless Colts have endured this season there remains one constant -- week after week, the team is going to throw the football. It has to, there is no other way.

That's especially true of this Sunday night's game against New Orleans, which forces opponents to keep pace with its rapid-fire offensive attack. To illustrate this point, the average combined score of a Saints game has been 54.6 points -- no NFL game reached that mark in Week 6.

This could be good news for an Indianapolis receiving corps frustrated by a lack of opportunity. A year ago, the Colts averaged 42.4 passing attempts a game; so far they've averaged 33.3.

The Saints allow 256.3 passing yards per game, and over the past four weeks New Orleans has surrendered five catches of 40-plus yards (including two of 60-plus). And during that stretch a number of secondary receivers (Mike Thomas, Arrelious Benn, Legedu Naanee) have posted respectable fantasy totals.

The long nightmare could be over for Reggie Wayne and company ... at least for a week.

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

Tampa Bay's rushing attack vs. Chicago's defense

Chicago does not give up the most yards on the ground per game (10 teams allow more), just the most per carry. Opposing backs have averaged 5.4 yards, and three of Chicago's opponents have averaged more than 6.0 yards on the ground as a team. True, the Bears did perform better against Adrian Peterson and the Vikings last week, but only because Chicago's fast start took Peterson out of the contest. That won't happen this week in London.

Expect a big day from: Earnest Graham has averaged 5.5 yards per carry this season, but up until last week had been limited. With LeGarrette Blount expected to sit out another contest, Graham will again receive the lion's share of the carries, and could provide a second straight 100-yard effort for fantasy owners.

Miami's passing attack vs. Denver's defense

Everyone from rookie Andy Dalton (332 yards, two touchdowns) to over-the-hill Matt Hasselbeck (331 yards, two touchdowns) has exploited Denver's pass defense. The Broncos allow a league-worst 106.5 QB Rating, and no opposing passer has posted a rating below 86.0 this season. Only Indianapolis' defense allows a higher completion percentage.

Expect a big day from: No, this is not an endorsement of Matt Moore. Think of it as much needed comfort for those fantasy owners panicking over the state of the Dolphins offense. Brandon Marshall has just one touchdown, but could have his best showing of the season on Sunday. Davone Bess may also pop out of his slump (just 21 yards in each of the last two games).

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Washington's rushing attack vs. Carolina's defense

The Panthers defense has given up eight rushing scores -- tied for the most in the league -- and only the Rams allow more yards on the ground per game. And no team has given up more big runs (10 runs of 20-plus yards) or big performances (Matt Forte with 205 yards, Michael Turner with 139, Maurice Jones-Drew with 122). The Redskins rushing attack could provide some stability this week for an offense in flux.

Expect a big day from: Ryan Torain hit a speed bump last week, but is expected to get the bulk of the carries, even with Tim Hightower returning from injury.

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

Jacksonville's rushing attack vs. Baltimore's defense

Baltimore keeps the action close to the line of scrimmage. The defense allows just 3.3 yards per carry and rarely permits anything past the front seven. In fact, the longest run the Ravens have allowed went for 23 yards. And no defense has collected more fumbles this season than Baltimore (eight).

Who to bench: It's awfully hard to sit Maurice Jones-Drew, but if fantasy owners ever had a reason to replace MJD with a backup, this could be it. In his only career meeting against Baltimore (Week 17, 2008), Jones-Drew put the ball on the ground twice and gained just 78 yards on 23 carries.

NY Jets' passing attack vs. San Diego's defense

Aside from Week 2, when Tom Brady picked the secondary apart, the Chargers have done well against the pass. The best an opposing receiver has done in the four other contests was Dwayne Bowe's 67-yard performance; two weeks ago, Denver's Brandon Lloyd and Eric Decker combined for three catches and 16 yards. Much of San Diego's success has to do with the fact that opponents don't throw much on the Chargers (opponents have averaged a league-low 26.4 passes per game).

Who to bench: This doesn't figure to be Mark Sanchez's best week, nor should fantasy owners get excited about Santonio Holmes, who has a touchdown in each of the past two weeks but has yet to crack 70 yards in a single game.

Green Bay's rushing attack vs. Minnesota's defense

The fifth-ranked Vikings run defense is giving up just 83.5 yards per game, and has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher. That streak is safe this weekend. Last year, Green Bay managed just 3.3 yards on 53 attempts in their two meetings against Minnesota.

Who to bench: The most either Ryan Grant or James Starks have carried in a game this season has been 17 times (Grant, Week 3). That's bad enough. This week's matchup against Minnesota means both should sit on a shelf.