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GENE MENEZ
December 04, 2006
GENE MENEZ MATCHUP OF THE WEEK Carolina's 5'9" mighty mite has been a giant points producer this season. But what will happen when he faces the aggressive, almost airtight defensive schemes of coordinator Jim Johnson?
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December 04, 2006

5 Minute Fantasy

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GENE MENEZ
MATCHUP OF THE WEEK
Carolina's 5'9" mighty mite has been a giant points producer this season. But what will happen when he faces the aggressive, almost airtight defensive schemes of coordinator Jim Johnson?

STEVE SMITH
WR PANTHERS
Since being sidelined for the first two games with a hamstring injury, Smith has either scored a touchdown or had at least 100 receiving yards in eight of nine games. And he has proved to be more than just a deep threat. Lining up in the slot or split wide, Smith has often been Carolina's go-to guy on intermediate routes, reverses and trick plays.

VS.

LITO SHEPPARD AND THE EAGLES' DEFENSE
A solid cover corner who mans the right side, Sheppard has been bothered by a bad hip. Still, he will see most of the action against Smith, with occasional help from fellow corner Sheldon Brown. Thanks to those two--and Johnson's reliance on the blitz-- Philadelphia's D is among the league's stingiest in allowing passing TDs (10) and passing yards per game (180.5).

THE VERDICT
Though Sheppard & Co. have excelled in coverage, the Eagles have struggled to get to the quarterback recently, producing just six sacks in their last six games. Without more pressure it won't matter how good the coverage is on Smith; he'll eventually get open for big gains.

JEFFRI CHADIHA
THE INSIDE MAN

Texan Hold 'Em

Yes, Houston has problems, but that doesn't mean that Andre Johnson's stats will suffer

Owners who�are concerned about production from top receivers on bad teams need not worry about the Texans' fourth-year man Andre Johnson, who is bouncing back from a disappointing 2005 (career lows of 688 yards and two touchdowns). Rookie coach Gary Kubiak has made Johnson a top priority in the offense. As one team source says, "I don't want to criticize what we've done in the past, but Gary came in with the attitude that Andre should have 100 catches a year. We've moved him around more than we ever have, and this staff has just found ways to get him the football."

The presence of 11-year veteran Eric Moulds has helped Johnson, who caught 10 balls for 98 yards and a TD against the Jets on Sunday. Moulds (49 catches for 510 yards) may have lost a couple of steps, but he's still dangerous enough to keep defenses from doubling Johnson on every play. Through Sunday, Johnson led the NFL with a career-best 84 receptions and was on pace to eclipse his '04 career highs of 1,142 yards and six TDs. As long as Houston's line can provide adequate protection for quarterback David Carr, Johnson should remain a reliable performer through the fantasy playoffs.

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