2013 NFL Scouting: Week Four’s Top Match-ups, Rookies to Watch, and More

 Johnson TillmanAfter much concern about his presumed demise, Colin Kaepernick and his 49ers squad bounced back nicely against a Rams team that put together one of their worst performances in recent memory on Thursday night.

As is becoming the trend, it was a lop sided and ugly start to the week of NFL action. Thankfully, the rest of the week should be far more entertaining. What are some of the best individual match-ups this week?

Top Match-Ups to Watch

Detroit WR Calvin Johnson vs. Chicago DB Charles Tillman

In a week with solid match-ups across the board, there still isn't a more intriguing individual match-up than the one between Calvin Johnson and Charles Tillman. It'll be a battle of two truly elite players, and it's likely that this match-up will be the pivot point for the game overall.

In the past, the Bears have typically allowed Tillman to cover Johnson one on one, which is one of the only times during the whole season where Johnson sees that sort of coverage. He hasn't often been able to take advantage of it, however. Last season, when Johnson racked up nearly 2000 receiving yards, he had two whole games playing against Tillman in single coverage. The result? Five catches for 70 yards over the course of those two games.

Tillman has had Johnson's number in the past, but he's not had the best start to his 2013 campaign. He was on AJ Green for most of week one, and Green finished the game with 162 yards and two touchdowns. Tillman has been banged up more recently, and he won't be 100% for this game. Can Megatron take advantage of Tillman's slow start, or will he be shut down yet again?

 

New York Jets WR Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes vs. Tennessee's Secondary

Quick, who had the Jets and Titans both starting 2-1? It's safe to say the fact that one of these two teams will be leaving this match-up at 3-1 is one of the biggest surprises of the season, considering the mess that both these teams were in by the end of 2012.

One also may not have predicted that the Rex Ryan-led Jets would be making the vertical passing game a huge part of their offense. In last week's game, each drive that resulted in a touchdown included a 40 yard or longer passing play. Both Stephen Hill and Santonio Holmes have had major success working with Geno Smith on those deep routes, and that will likely be the game plan again on Sunday.

That could spell trouble for a Tennessee team that is at times shaky against teams trying to stretch the field. Jason McCorty has been average this season, and while Alteraun Verner has been one of the better cornerbacks in the league thus far, he doesn't have the top speed to keep up with Hill. Bernard Pollard is a huge liability in coverage, so anything that gets past Verner is likely going to be Griffin's responsibility. Will he be able to keep the Jets' passing game in check?

 

Baltimore's Offensive Line vs. Buffalo's Defensive Line

For a team built to win games on the ground and with their defense, Baltimore's offensive line has certainly failed to live up to expectations thus far in the season. According to Pro Football Focus, Michael Oher and Bryant McKinnie have been the two worst run blocking offensive tackles in the league, and the interior of the offensive line hasn't fared much better. It's resulted in the Ravens' ground game ranking 25th in the league, with both Ray Rice and Bernard Pierce averaging less than three yards per carry.

Fortunately for Baltimore they're facing a defensive line that has struggling mightily against the opposition’s rushing game during the first three weeks of the season. They rank 31st in the league at stopping the run, thanks in no small part to having a defensive front seven with one-dimensional players like Mario Williams.

Baltimore will enter this game as the favorite and be focused on establishing the running game early, regardless of which running back is starting. If Buffalo wants a chance at an upset, they're going to have to stop the running game, or it'll be a long day for Bills fans.

 

Rookie Watch

GlennonWhen Tampa Bay drafted quarterback Mike Glennon while at the same time insisting that Josh Freeman was still the guy they wanted as the long term starter, many felt like the franchise was talking out of both sides of their mouth. The move announced this to make Glennon the starter from here on out felt inevitable – but will it make the Buccaneers a better team?

The good news for Tampa Bay? At 6'7, 225 lbs, Glennon looks the part of an NFL quarterback, and he's clearly got an NFL-caliber arm – his arm strength is by far his most notable trait on tape. It especially jumps out when he's throwing to the sidelines on out routes. His throwing motion is ideal, and combined with his height he's going to have no worries about passes batted down at the line of scrimmage. On paper, the Buccaneers' offense won't be limited by which throws Glennon can or can't make.

Unfortunately, the fact that Glennon knows he can physically make most any throw can often times get him in trouble. He trusted his arm too much too often while at NC State, resulting in far too many turnovers. Glennon never displayed good awareness in the pocket, and his decision making especially broke down when his offensive line broke down in front of him.

That in particular isn't good news for Tampa Bay, who hasn't exactly excelled at protecting the passer this season. They've given up seven sacks in the first three games of the season, and that's certainly got to be improved if they want Glennon to play at his best.

Expectations should be tempered for Glennon in Tampa Bay. While he's got the physical talent to be a the prototypical pocket passer in the NFL, mentally he's not there yet. It would have served him well to take a year to get used to the speed of the game and taken time in practice to break bad habits in the pocket.

Regardless of that, Greg Schiano has made it clear that Glennon is the starter from here on out, so the rest of Glennon's learning process will be under live-fire. Will he show enough promise to keep Tampa Bay from drafting another quarterback next spring?

 

Fantasy Notes

 

– Torrey Smith hasn't put up game breaking numbers to this point, but no one on the Ravens really has. That'll all turn around this week as they face a Buffalo secondary struggling to find enough healthy players to field a starting lineup. Start Smith and Joe Flacco with confidence this weekend.

– Brian Hoyer didn't figure to bode well for Josh Gordon's fantasy relevance, but at least in one game the two played well togther. The Browns ran nearly 60 passing plays, and with Trent Richardson wearing blue and white that's a trend that will likely continue for the rest of the season. Gordon should be a solid WR2 from here on out, and he still has WR1 upside.

– Now may be the time to sell on Andrew Luck. He's going to be an outstanding quarterback in real life, but his fantasy impact is going to be hurt by the direction of his offense. They're clearing taking on the personality of Pep Hamilton, and that means much more running than passing.

– With a match-up against the Eagles this week, Peyton Manning may make his week one fantasy score look tiny this time around. The only way Manning doesn't blow up again is if the Broncos let up early in the second half. It'd be a good idea to start any Broncos you have on your roster

– This may be the last chance you want to give Stevan Ridley. If he's not the getting the majority of carries against Atlanta, you may want to stop wasting a spot in your starting line up on him.

 

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