Everyone loves great matchups, why wouldn’t you? The Ravens and Broncos, Vikings and Packers and the Giants-Eagles game are all fantastic games on paper. But what about the weaker games? The bottom-rung teams playing here in midseason for well, jobs, pride, the lowly thread on which their playoff chances rest? There are some awful games out there, but still great football if you look close at each matchup. I would not suggest leaving your favorite team to peek at some of these hard-to-find matchups, but aside from fantasy football interest, there are many things to look for, even in those highlight packages or “game breaks” offered by the networks.
Oakland at San Diego-
Raiders (2-5) at Chargers (3-3): The Raiders have been abysmal this year. Each week I look for some production out of their passing game, some progression from former top draft choice JaMarcus Russell, and each week I’m let down. Fortunately for Oakland, the team visit’s a Chargers team that I think is pretty bad themselves. San Diego has a terrific quarterback in Philip Rivers and decent receivers in Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates and Malcolm Floyd, but no running game to speak of and weaknesses on both lines.
I’m not saying that Oakland will pass for 300 yards or shut-out the Bolts, but it is an interesting contest.
Running back Ladanian (SD) Tomlinson vs. Oakland’s front-seven:
LT could stand for lousy and terrible this season, but he showed some nice flashes last week of returning to the quick and speedy runner we’ve all watched over the years. It should help that he faces one of the league’s worst run defenses. The Raiders give up and average of 4.6 yards per carry and have surrendered a whopping 11 touchdowns on the ground this season.
Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (Oak)vs., Wide receiver Vincent Jackson (SD):
Asomugha isn’t exactly an interception machine, with zero on the season and just 10 in his career, but he is a shutdown corner. In their week one matchup, Jackson hauled in just five catches for a meager 56 yards and one touchdown. San Diego won the game by just 4 points.
Rams (0-7) at Lions (1-5)-
Wide receiver Calvin Johnson (DET) and running back Stephen Jackson (STL) vs. weak defenses.
The records are ugly, but there are some interesting tidbits here. The Lions have one of the league’s most impressive specimens in 6’5’’ Calvin Johnson, a game-changer at wide receiver.
The Rams have, well, running back Stephen Jackson. These two won’t be matched up against each other but both facing atrocious defenses and both are capable of putting up huge numbers. Last week, Jackson tallied 134 yards in a loss to the Colts, while Johnson racked up 133 yards two weeks ago in a loss to Chicago. The Rams are statistically the worst defense out there, they’ve given up 211 points (most in the NFL) this season. Look for Detroit’s passing game to surge this week. On the other hand St. Louis should find plenty of holes in a Lions line that’s surrendered nearly five yards per carry.
Thanks to Calvin Johnson for being out of today's game due to an injury and subsequently ruining my pick. Because of this, I'll have to ammend this pick from Johnson to Detriot running back Kevin Smith. The second year pro is an excellent runner and receiver. Without Johnson the offense will fall squarely on his shoulders. He's been productive so far in Detroit and should rack up substantial yardage against St. Louis.