This Week's Top 5 NFL Matchups

Dallas QB Tony Romo (Ronald Martinez/Getty)

Scout.com NFL Analyst has selected his top five NFL matchups out of this week's slate of games. See what he has to say about the Rams-Cowboys, Packers-Vikings, Broncos-Colts, Eagles-Giants and Patriots-Bengals games.

St. Louis Rams (0-3) at Dallas Cowboys (3-0)

Game Overview:  The St. Louis Rams have been one of the most disappointing teams so far, and they have a tough matchup against the undefeated Dallas Cowboys. Dallas has an explosive offense that creates mismatches against most opponents. The Rams have improved their pass defense, but struggle against the run. Dallas features a tremendous tandem at running back -- Marion Barber and Julius Jones. Barber has been dominant thus far, rushing for 256 yards on 40 carries (6.4 YPC) and four touchdowns. The Rams defense will have a tough time keeping Barber in check, especially with the Cowboys offensive line playing as well as it has. Another concern for the Rams' defense is the play of Tony Romo and his ability to make plays on the run. Romo has displayed great awareness, accuracy, and leadership; plus he's kept Terrell Owens happy, which is huge for Dallas' success. St. Louis will be without Steven Jackson in this game. Jackson has a partial tear in his groin that will keep him out a week, which means second-round rookie Brian Leonard will make his first NFL start. Leonard is a big, physical back that can be used the same way Jackson's used in the offense, but Leonard is not as shifty as Jackson. The health of starting quarterback Marc Bulger is a major concern for the Rams offense. Bulger has been playing with two broken ribs and a sore knee, and last week against the Bucs, Bulger showed signs of discomfort. He threw for 116 yards and three interceptions in the Rams loss to Tampa Bay.

Key Injuries:

Dallas
Out:  DE Greg Ellis (Achillies), WR Terry Glenn (Knee)
Questionable : CB Terence Newman (Foot)

St. Louis
Out:  RB Steven Jackson (Groin), CB Tye Hill (Back)
Doubtful:  OG Richie Incognito (Ankle)

Head 2 Head Matchup:  Cowboys, RB - Marion Barber vs. Rams, MLB - Will Witherspoon

Barber is your prototypical North/South runner that tries to use his strength to overpower the opposition. With the Rams defensive line filled with pass rushers, Witherspoon has the daunting task of stopping Barber. For the Rams to have success against the Cowboys' run game, the defensive line has to plug up the rush lanes and stop Barber before he gets to the second level. If they're unable to do this, it may be a long day for Witherspoon.

Fantasy Spotlight:

Dallas
Tony Romo - Romo has been outstanding through the first three games and he will have another solid game against the Rams. The Cowboys have a nice mix of pass and run in their offense, and with the Rams looking to stop the run, the passing game will open up for Romo.

St. Louis
Brian Leonard - I really like Leonard. This is going to be his first professional start, so you don't really know what to expect. The only thing I can tell you is if the Rams don't change their philosophy and utilize Leonard as they do with Jackson, Leonard will have a very nice debut. I project he'll have at least one touchdown against Dallas.

Prediction:  Cowboys 31, St. Louis 21


Green Bay Packers (3-0) at Minnesota Vikings (1-2)


Packers WR Donald Driver
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Game Overview: Did anyone think the Green Bay Packers would start the season 3-0? I seriously doubt it. Is this the start of a magical season for Brett Favre and Co.? There are a lot of reasons to believe if you're a Packers fan. The Packers defense seems to be for real. They have an outstanding secondary that features Charles Woodson and Al Harris. Their linebackers are flying around the ball and making plays. And the defensive line has stepped up. The only drawback for the Pack may be their offense. Sure, Favre has looked good the first few weeks, but if the Packers don't develop a consistent running game, their offense will become predictable. Minnesota, on the other hand, has one of the better running games in the NFL. Star rookie Adrian Peterson has been phenomenal and is the early leader for the Rookie of the Year award. Just like the Packers, the Vikings have a flaw on offense, but it's their passing game. Second-year quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is hurt, but when he was healthy, he wasn't effective. Kelly Holcomb will start this week against the Packers, but if the Vikings are to have any chance at defeating Green Bay, they have to run the ball. Minnesota is dealing with a lot of injuries, and there are a lot of players questionable for this week's game -- most notable: Darren Sharper (hip), Dwight Smith (hamstring), Chester Taylor (hip), and Troy Williamson (hamstring). The Packers are relatively healthy and face a tough battle with a division rival.

Key Injuries:

Minnesota
Doubtful:  QB Tarvaris Jackson (Groin), FB Tony Richardson (Forearm)
Questionable:  S Darren Sharper (Hip), S Dwight Smith (Hamstring). RB Chester Taylor (Hip), WR Troy Williamson (Hamstring)

Green Bay
Out:  DE Mike Montgomery (Knee)
Doubtful:  RB Vernand Morency (Knee)
Questionable:  MLB Desmond Bishop (Shoulder) Head 2 Head Matchup: Vikings, RB - Adrian Peterson vs. Packers, OLB - A.J. Hawk

This will be an interesting matchup. Peterson is a great all-around running back with a lot of skills, but he faces an aggressive Green Bay defense this weekend. The Packers are good against the run and I'm sure A.J. Hawk will have the privilege of keeping an eye on No. 28. Peterson's knack for finding a seam and busting through it for big gains causes fits for the opposition. Hawk's responsibility will be to contain Peterson, especially on swing passes out of the back field, and not allow him to get into the open field.

Fantasy Spotlight:

Minnesota
Ryan Longwell - With the Packers defense playing at a high level and the Vikings offense struggling a bit, Longwell will have a few opportunities to hand his former team their first loss.

Green Bay
Donald Driver - The Vikings defense is solid against the run, and since the Packers don't really have a running game, Driver is prime to bust out against an ailing Minnesota secondary. Driver has faced the Vikings 14 times in his career and has 54 receptions for 900 yards and six touchdowns. Those are excellent numbers against a divisional team.

Prediction: Minnesota 24, Green Bay 20


Denver Broncos (2-1) at Indianapolis Colts (3-0)


Peyton Manning and Joseph Addai
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Game Overview: The last two weeks the Titans and Texans have challenged the Colts, but just like great teams do, they found a way to win. The Colts' offense has been playing very well and Peyton Manning is having another stellar season. Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are also playing at a high level and Joseph Addai has played well in his second-year. But entering this Sunday's game against the Broncos, the Colts will face the league's best pass defense. The Broncos feature Champ Bailey and Dre' Bly in the secondary, two of the top cover corners in the league. The Colts have to install a balanced attack to catch the Broncos' defense off guard. The Broncos have an athletic defense that puts pressure on the quarterback and plays aggressively against the pass. The one area the Colts will be able to exploit is Denver's run defense, currently ranked 29th in the league. Addai has averaged 90 yards a game on the ground for the Colts through the first three weeks, and the Broncos are allowing 166 yards a game, which is great news for the Colts. The Broncos also feature a solid running game. Travis Henry has been a great addition and has led the Denver offense thus far. The maturation of Jay Cutler is still a work in progress, but the kid has shown a lot of grit and poise in just his second-year. This will be a contest that will come down to the team that has the most success running the ball -- passing will be secondary.

Key Injuries:

Indianapolis
Questionable:  TE Dallas Clark (Neck), OT Ryan Diem (Neck), OLB Rob Morris (Abdomen)

Denver
Out:  S Hamza Abdullah (Hip), OG Ben Hamilton (Concussion), OT Ryan Harris (Back)
Questionable:  TE Stephen Alexander (Calf), CB Domonique Foxworth (Ankle)

Head 2 Head Matchup:  Marvin Harrison vs. Champ Bailey

This is a classic matchup between two of the best players at their positions. Harrison is one of the most productive receivers in NFL history, and Bailey is an All-World cornerback who quarterbacks avoid throwing the ball near. Harrison is a major weapon in the Colts arsenal and a player Peyton Manning relies on to make plays. Bailey is an aggressive receiver that plays physical on the line of scrimmage. He doesn't back down to anyone and makes the receiver challenge him.

Fantasy Spotlight:

Denver
Travis Henry - Henry will be counted on to make a lot of plays against the Colts' defense. Historically, in six career games, Henry hasn't been very successful against the Colts. In these six career games, Henry has rushed for 411 yards on 92 carries and just one touchdown. The Colts are decent against the run, but still allow over 90 yards a game on the ground. With that being said, Henry has an opportunity to have a nice game as the Colts will apply a lot of pressure on Jay Cutler.

Indianapolis
Joseph Addai - Going up against one of the worst run defenses in the league will allow the Colts' offense to have a productive day on the ground. Addai will get his touches and should have a big day.

Prediction:  Indianapolis 27, Denver 17


Philadelphia Eagles (1-2) at New York Giants (1-2)


Plaxico Burress battles Lito Sheppard
Doug Benc/Getty Images

Game Overview:  The Eagles offense finally broke through last week against the Detroit Lions and showed what it's capable of. Donovan McNabb was accurate and made excellent decisions against the Lions defense. His performance against the Lions was vastly improved from his performances against Green Bay and Washington, so what to expect this week is anyone's guess. Kevin Curtis and Brian Westbrook also had outstanding games against Detroit, and they will be counted on this week against New York. The Giants have struggled this season, but this past week against the Redskins they battled back under tough circumstances. Being down 17-3 at halftime, the Giants struck back and scored three touchdowns in the second half to get their first win of the season. The Giants' defense also played well in the second half and shutout the Redskins' offense. The Eagles are facing the 29th ranked pass defense, and they should be able to take advantage of their suspect secondary. The Giants are also facing a banged-up Philadelphia secondary, which was torched by Jon Kitna who threw for 446 yards. For Philadelphia to be successful, they have to apply pressure on Eli Manning and be physical against Plaxico Burress. For the Giants to have success, they have to contain Brian Westbrook and get in the face of McNabb. This is always a physical game that usually comes down to the end. This is an important game for both teams, because a loss means two division losses for one of these teams. And if either of these teams have playoff aspirations, this game is huge.

Key Injuries:

New York
Out:  RB Brandon Jacobs (Knee), WR Steve Smith (Shoulder)
Questionable:  WR Plaxico Burress (Ankle)

Philadelphia
Out:  TE L.J. Smith (Groin)
Doubtful:  CB Lito Sheppard (Knee)
Questionable:  S Brian Dawkins (Neck)

Head 2 Head Matchup:  Brodrick Bunkley vs. Eli Manning

After a disappointing rookie season, Bunkley has been outstanding so far this season. He's shown great push off the line of scrimmage and commands a double team. This is huge for the Eagles' defensive line, a line that totaled eight sacks last week against Detroit. The Eagles have to pressure Eli Manning and force him to turn the ball over. Manning loves to get the ball to Plaxico Burress against the Eagles, and Burress always seems to bring his "A" game against Philadelphia. It'll be Bunkley's responsibility to get a good push up the middle and allow the defensive line to pressure Manning. If Bunkley isn't able to get to Manning, it could spell trouble for the Eagles' secondary.

Fantasy Spotlight:

Philadelphia
Reggie Brown - Brown is off to an abysmal start, but things always seem to come around for him when he faces the Giants. In four career games against the Giants, Brown has 13 receptions for 260 yards and three touchdowns. Brown only has five receptions for 64 yards and no touchdowns through the first three weeks of this season. Expect a big game from Brown this weekend.

New York Giants
Plaxico Burress - Burress is the ultimate Philly killer. In six career games against the Eagles, Burress has 24 receptions for 458 yards and two touchdowns. If Manning has time to find Burress, expect him to exploit the 26th ranked pass defense and give Burress the opportunity to have another tremendous game against the Eagles.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 21, New York Giants 20


New England Patriots (3-0) at Cincinnati Bengals (1-2)


Tom Brady
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Game Overview:  This should be a great offensive game between two teams with high-powered offenses. The Patriots are ranked No. 1 in the league in offense and defense, and they have scored 38 points in all of their games this season. That's an amazing stat. It shows that the offense is consistent and flat-out scary. The Bengals can score at will and are ranked 5th in total offense and shouldn't be taken lightly. The only difference between these two teams is that one team can play defense and the other one can't. Even though the Patriots have an outstanding defense, this game appears destined to be a shootout. Playing on the road and facing a team that's lost its last two games by a total of nine points -- while posting 66 points -- could be a setup game for the Patriots. As good as New England's looked the last few weeks, and as bad as the Cincinnati defense has played the last two games the Bengals will look to shock the world and get back on track this weekend.

Key Injuries:

Cincinnati
Out:  OLB Rashad Jeanty (Shin), S Ethan Kilmer (Knee), WR Tab Perry (Hamstring)
Doubtful:  MLB Ahmad Brooks (Groin), C Eric Ghiaciuc (Thumb), OLB Lemar Marshall (Groin)
Questionable: OT Willie Anderson (Foot), WR Antonio Chatman (Hamstring), WR Chinedum Ndukwe (Hamstring)

New England
Questionable:  OG Stephen Neal (Shoulder), WR Donte' Stallworth (Knee), WR Kelley Washington (Hamstring), S Eugene Wilson (Ankle), OG Billy Yates (Shoulder)

Head 2 Head Matchup: Tom Brady vs. Carson Palmer

Brady is the best quarterback in football. Even with all of the controversy surrounding the Patriots with "Spygate", he's still the complete package. Carson Palmer is a rising star in the league and appears to be fully recovered from his knee injury he suffered two years ago. This will be a high-scoring game that features some of the best receivers in the game. It'll come down to Brady or Palmer making the key play to elevate their team to a victory.

Fantasy Spotlight:

New England
Randy Moss - Moss is off to a tremendous start. He's really added another dimension to the Patriots' offensive attack, and all are gaining from his presence. Moss has 22 receptions for 403 yards and five touchdowns thus far. Going up against a poor Bengals secondary, expect Moss to continue his solid play.

Cincinnati
T.J. Houshmandzadeh - All the attention is usually directed towards Chad Johnson, and when the Bengals play the Patriots that's the truth. But when New England focuses on Johnson, Houshmandzadeh is the benefactor of that attention. In two career games against the Patriots, Housmandzadeh has 16 receptions for 240 yards and no touchdowns.

Prediction:  Cincinnati 38, New England 35

A member of the Pro Football Writers of America and the Football Writers Association of America, Chris Steuber has provided his analysis of the NFL and NFL Draft prospects on the web and on the radio since 1999.

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