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Sept. 18, 2006
Sept. 18, 2006

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Sept. 18, 2006

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WE LIKE THE MATCHUP

QUARTER BACK

This is an article from the Sept. 18, 2006 issue

DONOVAN MCNABBEagles vs. Giants
Last week's win over Houston, in which Donte' Stallworth and Reggie Brown mademajor contributions, dispelled any notion that the Eagles have no qualityreceivers. McNabb, who has a 13-to-4 career touchdowns-to-interceptions ratioagainst Big Blue, gets to exploit a secondary that Peyton Manning pickedapart.

DAUNTE CULPEPPERDolphins vs. Bills
His Miami debut was less than stellar (no TDs, two interceptions), andBuffalo's defense held Tom Brady in check (163 yards, two TDs, oneinterception). However, Culpepper has better weapons at his disposal across theboard than Brady--especially Chris Chambers, whom Buffalo couldn't cover lastyear.

STEVE MCNAIRRavens vs. Raiders
He efficiently spread the ball around in dismantling the Bucs on Sunday.Against the Raiders look for the former league co-MVP to put the ball in theair more than the 27 times he did in last week's clock-grinding battle inTampa. In 2005, playing for the hapless Titans, McNair threw for 229 yards on40 attempts against Oakland.

DREW BREES Saintsvs. Packers
Brees has to be feeling pretty good about this matchup after seeing RexGrossman fillet the Packers' defense for 262 yards and a TD. Look for lots ofshort dump passes and screens to Reggie Bush, which will inevitably lead to abomb or two to Joe Horn, who was nearly invisible on Sunday (two catches, 25yards).

RUNNING BACK

JULIUS JONESCowboys vs. Redskins
All eyes will be on Washington's Clinton Portis, who is expected to make hisfirst start in this game, but Jones will steal the show after a stellar openerof his own in Week 1 against a very tough Jaguars front seven. Last seasonJones averaged 4.7 yards per carry against a Redskins team that allowed anaverage of 4.1.

WILLIE PARKERSteelers vs. Jaguars
Fast Willie came up a yard short of crossing the goal line and thus having aneven bigger game against the Dolphins last Thursday than he'd already had (115yards). The strength of Jacksonville's D lies in defensive tackles JohnHenderson and Marcus Stroud, so look for the Steelers to run Parker to theoutside.

CADILLAC WILLIAMSBuccaneers vs. Falcons
Atlanta could not keep Cadillac from the fast lane last season, allowing him torun wild in both of the teams' meetings. In those two games Williams, then justa rookie, carried a total of 50 times for 266 yards and two touchdowns, plus hecaught four passes for 23 yards. Look for more of the same this timearound.

RONNIE BROWNDolphins vs. Bills
The Patriots duo of Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney racked up 159 yardsrushing against the Bills. Brown was held to 30 yards against the Steelers(though he had two TDs), but look for him to bounce back strong in Miami's mostanticipated home opener since the Jimmie Johnson era.

TIGHT END

VERNON DAVIS49ers vs. Rams
If you've got him, now's the time to break open the seal and give thismini--Antonio Gates a whirl. Quarterback Alex Smith will have room to workagainst a revamped St. Louis D. But he may have to get his passes off quicklyagainst the blitz-happy Rams, which is where short-range option Davis (who hadfive catches and a TD in Week 1) comes in.

CHRIS BAKER Jetsvs. Patriots
Until a goal line threat emerges from the Kevin Barlow/Derrick Blaylock/CedricHouston (five total TDs in 2005) running back troika, Baker may be the Man inthe red zone. Last year he and Chad Pennington hooked up 10 times in the firstthree weeks. Baker had a TD grab on Sunday and now faces a shaky Patssecondary.

SUPER SLEEPER

DOMINICRHODES

RB COLTS vs.Texans

Can Rhodes, whowas held to 29 yards on 16 carries against the Giants in Week 1, replicateEdgerrin James's 2005 season of 1,506 yards and 13 TDs rushing? Only time willtell. But James's past romps--seemingly unimpeded--through the Houston defensebode well for Rhodes. When the Texans opted for DE Mario Williams with the toppick in the '06 draft, owner Bob McNair said, "[We] need a defense that canput pressure on the passer. That's the only way [we're] going to beatIndianapolis." Indeed, as long as Peyton Manning keeps Houston'slinebackers and safeties on their heels (which he's done to the tune of 273.5yards per game since '03) he'll have the Texans D's full attention. With thefocus on Manning, James ran for 261 yards and three scores in two games lastyear against Houston. Until the Texans' revamped unit solves its Manningproblem, expect Rhodes to roll up the stats.

WIDE RECEIVER

ROD SMITH Broncosvs. Chiefs
Smith has more catches (117) and yards (1,734) against Kansas City than againstany other team in his illustrious career. In fact, among active players no onehas more catches or yards against an opponent than Smith does against theChiefs. Look for Javon Walker to get the most attention in coverage, leavingSmith open for a couple of big plays.

DARRELL JACKSONSeahawks vs. Cardinals
You'd like to believe that Mike Holmgren will have something up his sleeveafter watching his high-octane passing game get throttled by the Lions. Jacksonwon't repeat last Sunday's pedestrian statistics (five catches, 47 yards),especially against a secondary he's shredded for 107 yards per game.

ISAAC BRUCE Ramsvs. 49ers
San Francisco was torched for 301 passing yards by Kurt Warner last week, whichmakes the Niners ripe for the picking by the high-powered St. Louis offense. Inthe last three seasons Bruce had games of 93, 100 and 61 yards (with a TD) whenthe Rams visited Candlestick Point. Bruce's wideout running mate, Torry Holt,is also a great play (as usual) this week.

JOE HORN Saintsvs. Packers
The Green Bay secondary made the Bears' Rex Grossman, Muhsin Muhammad andBernard Berrian look like All-Pros last week, which bodes well for Drew Breesand his receivers. Although he was outperformed by Devery Henderson and rookieMarques Colston on Sunday, Horn will be a force in Week 2.

KICKER

NEIL RACKERSCardinals vs. Seahawks
That was a fancy show that Arizona put on against the hapless 49ers defense,but Rackers owners had to want a little more. He'll get plenty of chancesagainst a D that actually protects its turf. In two 2005 games against theSeahawks, Rackers was called on a whopping eight times to finish off Arizonadrives; he made all eight attempts, including two from 50 yards and one from54.

DEFENSE

BEARS vs.Lions
Detroit is still fumbling with Mike Martz's new catch-and-run offense; Chicagohas a firm grasp on Lovie Smith's Cover 2 defense. Do the math. As a bonus,rookie return man Devin Hester (who had an 84-yard punt return for a touchdownagainst the Packers in Week 1) is likely to romp all over the Lions' lowlyspecial teams.

DAVID SABINO
THE PERFECT TEAM: WEEK 2

QB PEYTON MANNING vs. Texans Year's most favorablematchup

RB RUDI JOHNSON vs. Browns Will light up cross-staterivals

RB TIKI BARBER at Eagles Comes up huge in biggames

WR REGGIE WAYNE vs. Texans If they can't cover Donte'Stallworth....

WR CHRIS CHAMBERS vs. Bills Last game versus Buffalo:238 yards

TE TONY GONZALEZ at Broncos He'll be Huard's securityblanket

K JASON ELAM vs. Chiefs The kicks will be flying inDenver

D COLTS vs. Texans Dwight Freeney will rack up a sackhat trick

SIX PHOTOSJAMES D. SMITH/WIREIMAGE.COM (RHODES); HUNTER MARTIN/WIREIMAGE.COM (MCNABB); BOB ROSATO (MCNAIR); PETER READ MILLER (JONES); HEINZ KLUETMEIER (WILLIAMS); GREG TROTT/WIREIMAGE.COM (DAVIS)THREE PHOTOSJOSEPH POELLET/WIREIMAGE.COM (SMITH); JOSH MERWIN/BEIMAGES SPORTS (BRUCE); KARL WRIGHT/ICON SMI (RACKERS)