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Matchup Meter: Freeman, Bucs aim to extend Panthers' tough season


Few quarterbacks have been as hot as Josh Freeman lately (10 touchdowns and no interceptions in his last four games), yet he continues to get snubbed when fantasy owners shape their lineups. Don't make that mistake this week.

The Buccaneers face a Panthers defense ranked 20th in opposing QB Rating (91.2) and 24th in completions allowed. In the five games played at Bank of America Stadium this season, Carolina has surrendered at least one passing score to each opponent, and has allowed an average of 273.2 passing yards.

• Number to know: 67.5 -- The completion percentage Carolina has allowed to opposing passers (30th).

• Expect a big day from: Freeman, who has thrown six touchdowns and just one interception in his past four games against the Panthers.

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

St. Louis' rushing attack vs. N.Y. Jets' defense

New York ranks 30th in run defense and allows 4.4 yards per carry. The Jets have allowed three backs to gain 120 or more yards rushing. Those numbers should excite a Rams team trying to find some consistency in the backfield.

• Number to know: 33.3 -- The average number of rushing attempts for opponents facing the Jets this season. Only the Ravens (33.4) allow more carries.

• Expect a big day from: Steven Jackson, who carried the ball 29 times last week and is still the go-to back for now. Jackson's owners have been waiting to see a return on their investment all season; this is their chance.

Oakland's passing attack vs. New Orleans' defense

All things considered, the Saints may have the worst pass defense in the league. They allow the second-most passing yards (307.3), allow opposing passers a league-worst QB Rating of 104.4 and rank dead last in yards allowed per passing attempt (8.6).

• Number to know: 11 -- The number of touchdown passes New Orleans' secondary has allowed in four road games this year (with just one interception). All four passers registered QB Ratings above 100.0.

• Expect a big day from: Carson Palmer, who is available in a number of leagues and could have a monster week. Fantasy owners may also want to consider finding a spot in their lineup for wide receivers Denarius Moore and Darrius Heyward-Bey.

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

Chicago's rushing attack vs. San Francisco's defense

The 49ers may no longer be the invincible unit they were a year ago, but they're still one of the league's best run defenses. They have allowed few long runs (and no runs of 40-plus) and only three rushing touchdowns. In a game that could help decide NFC playoff positioning, San Francisco will be at its best.

• Number to know: 3.7 -- The average number of rushing yards San Francisco allows per carry, fourth lowest in the league.

• Player to bench: Bench Matt Forte? It's tough to do, but this could be an ugly game for Chicago's lead back. He must face a top-ranked defense on the road, and the uncertainty of Jay Cutler's status will also work against him.

Philadelphia's passing attack vs. Washington's defense

For weeks, fantasy owners have been crying for Michael Vick to go; after Sunday they may be pleading for his return. Nick Foles lacks experience and is prone to making first-year mistakes (he had an interception and fumble returned for touchdowns last week and had another interception that was negated by a penalty). Even though Foles faces a suspect Redskins secondary (ranked 30th against the pass), fantasy owners should not automatically believe this matchup will equate to fantasy success.

• Number to know: 211.5 -- The average number of passing yards the Redskins have allowed in their last two games (against Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton).

• Player to bench: DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin, who could be unwilling victims in Foles' first NFL road trip.

San Diego's rushing attack vs. Denver's defense

During its recent four-game winning streak, Denver has allowed just one rushing touchdown; no opposing back gained more than 75 yards. This season, Denver has allowed 3.6 yards per carry and just four runs of 20 or more yards.

• Number to know: 24 -- The longest run an opposing back has managed against the Broncos this season.

• Player to bench: Ryan Mathews, who earlier this year gained 74 yards on 22 carries (3.4 yards per carry) against Denver. Mathews has scored just one touchdown, and has yet to gain 100 or more yards in a contest this season. Expect the same story this week.