Game of the Week:
New England Patriots @ Baltimore Ravens: 8:20 P.M.
This is a huge game for two teams coming off disappointing, gut-wrenching losses. Baltimore lost last week because their offensive line struggled mightily in pass protection against the Eagles front-four. The stats don’t show it however, as QB Joe Flacco was only sacked twice for 14 yards and was only hit once. Known for holding the ball for too long at times, Flacco really did an impressive job all day long at taking care of the football considering how often he was under duress. The strip-sack fumble that Trent Cole got in the first quarter was all Cole. It took Cole 2.67 seconds from the time the ball was hiked to the time he caused the fumble, as LT Michael Oher froze like a statue off the line. Furthermore, the 22 for 42 performance was caused by the lack of time he had in the pocket and those incompletions were mostly on plays where he just was getting rid of the ball.
The Patriots on the other hand, suffered a completely inexcusable loss to an Arizona Cardinals team that has, without question, the worst offensive line in football right now. Thanks to a season-ending injury to LT Levi Brown, the Cardinals are being forced to start rookie RT Bobby Massie and LT D’Anthony Batiste who has been a career backup with six NFL teams. Batiste was atrocious on Sunday vs. the Patriots as Chandler Jones was in the backfield all day long.
This leads to the key matchup for Sunday Night’s game:
Ravens LT Michael Oher vs. Patriots RE Chandler Jones
Further problems for the Patriots against Arizona: their pass blocking but more importantly their play calling as the Patriots seem to now be faced with an identity issue. The Patriots ran the ball effectively in their win over the Titans, but were unsuccessful against Arizona. In all seriousness, Arizona has a pretty stout defense, and they showed it against New England. But the play-calling for the Patriots was extremely bland, boring, and predictable in their loss on Sunday.
Brady had a poor game with a few missed throws in crucial moments, and he never seemed to be in rhythm. When he got into a rhythm and the Patriots offense started moving the ball down the field, it always seemed like the Patriots were failing to convert on third-down.
With the news that Aaron Hernandez will be out this week with an ankle injury, the onus will be on Rob Gronkowski to be able to win this key matchup:
Ravens FS Ed Reed vs. Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski
If newly signed TE Kellen Winslow can show up this week and play at half the level of Hernandez, it will be a huge boost to the Patriots. The greatest weakness Baltimore has is when Ed Reed is forced into an “over the top” support role on an outside receiver and SS Bernard Pollard (who is a great run-stopper) has to play in coverage.
Third Key Matchup:
WR Brandon Lloyd vs. Ravens CB Jimmy Smith or LaDarius Webb
SS Bernard Pollard- Questionable: Ribs
CB LaDarius Webb- Questionable: Knee
WR Brandon Lloyd- Questionable: Thigh
Start Ravens QB Joe Flacco
Start Ravens WR Torrey Smith
Patriots RB Steven Ridley is a risky option this week; downgrade him from #2 RB to FLEX option
Ravens hand the Patriots their second straight loss 31-23
St. Louis Rams @ Chicago Bears: 1:00 P.M.
Two teams couldn’t have played more differently last week than the Bears and Rams did. The Bears are coming off a loss against Green Bay in which they looked absolutely horrible, and the Rams completed an impressive upset at home against the up-start Washington Redskins.
Most games are won and lost in the trenches and on turnovers and this game will be no exception. Rams QB Sam Bradford is coming off an impressive performance in which he was 26-35 for 310 yards. However, more impressive than the counting stats were his quick reads and decision making.
Bears QB Jay Cutler was bad against Green Bay, but most of the blame can be placed on their pitiful offensive-line; with LT J’Marcus Webb having pass-blocked like he was giving out buffet coupons, Cutler didn’t stand a chance against speed rusher Clay Matthews.
The problem for the Bears is that Webb will be facing another great pass rusher this week in Robert Quinn.
Bears LT J’Marcus Webb vs. Rams RE Robert Quinn
Quinn and fellow D-Lineman Chris Long should cause a lot of problems for Chicago on Sunday.
It will be up to the secondary to contain Bears WR’s Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffrey long enough for the Rams to be able to get some sacks on Cutler.
For the Rams, their quick passing game worked wonders against the Redskins in Week 2, and against the Bears Cover-2 Defense, it will be once again up to Bradford to make the right decisions with the football.
Julius Peppers, Shea McLellin and surprise sack leader DT Henry Melton will need to keep the pressure on Bradford all day.
Key Matchup: Danny Amendola vs. the Chicago Defense
Amendola is a stud slot-receiver and since the Bears typically play Cover-2, it will be very interesting to see how they decide to defend him. CB Tim Jennings is having a pretty good year so far, as is the always solid Charles Tillman, but the Bears are very thin at safety, and lack depth at CB.
RB Matt Forte- Questionable: Ankle
DE Julius Peppers- Probable: Foot
St. Louis Rams:
RB Steven Jackson- Questionable: Groin
Matt Forte is expected to miss this weekend’s tussle, making RB Michael Bush a start in all non-PPR formats.
If Steven Jackson sits, start Daryl Richardson at your own risk in deeper leagues. He’s a boom/bust option at the moment, since we really don’t know what to expect from him.
(I expect both teams to struggle on the ground)
Start WR Danny Amendola in all formats
Start WR Brandon Gibson in deeper PPR leagues
Start Bears WR Alshon Jeffrey in deeper PPR leagues as Brandon Marshall should draw stud CB Janoris Jenkins.
Rams win on the road 24-23 (winning the turnover battle)!
Written by Josh Kay exclusively for TheFantasyFix.com. For more great fantasy analysis, follow Josh on Twitter@Rays_Nut1292