Fantasy owners weren't sure what to expect from Marshawn Lynch last week against the Dolphins. After all, he was coming off of a three-game suspension and joining a red-hot Fred Jackson in the Bills' backfield. He disappointed with four rushing yards but made some hay with 43 yards through the air.
The more encouraging sign is that he had just one fewer carry than Jackson (his eight to Jackson's nine) and actually caught two more passes than Jackson (his five to Jackson's three). Some people believed that Lynch's role would be limited as the Bills catered to Jackson, but it's clear that they're splitting the work.
This week, history indicates that Lynch should not only split the work but split up the Browns. Last year, while sharing the ball with Jackson, Lynch crushed Cleveland at home for 119 rush yards and 58 receiving yards with a touchdown catch. He faces those same Browns again in Week 5, though this time they're actually worse than last season! The Browns are ranked 31st against the run, giving up an average of 176.8 rush yards per game. They've also given up a league-worst eight touchdowns on the ground this season. Sure, the Browns fended off Cedric Benson last week, but before Week 4 they yielded at least two rushing scores in every game.
With Lynch shaking off some rust in Week 4, expect him and Jackson to run all over the Browns early and often in Week 5, especially since the Bills need to give quarterback Trent Edwards a bit of a rest after getting destroyed over the last two weeks. Don't be surprised to see the Bills run the ball at least 30 times, which means Lynch and Jackson should post great stats, with Lynch the better of the two.
Receiver vs. cornerback, teacher vs. student
It's always interesting when one of Bill Belichick's former assistants gets to face him, and that's what we'll get when the Broncos host the Patriots in Week 5. Josh McDaniels, the Patriots' former offensive coordinator, has the Broncos out fast at 4-0 and will try to make it 5-0 against New England.
This is an interesting game with plenty of storylines and history.
2008 at New England: Moss steamrolls Bailey's Broncos for 69 yards on five catches and two touchdowns, but Bailey left the game in the first half with a groin pull. Before he left, Moss had two catches for 18 yards.
2006 at Denver: As a Raider, Moss was blanketed and had an awful quarterback in Andrew Walter throwing to him. He finished with 86 yards on five catches, but his biggest gain -- a 51-yard catch -- came when he beat Bailey as part of double coverage.
2006 at Oakland: Moss gets one catch for 8 yards. Yawn.
2005 at Oakland: Moss scored on Bailey's Broncos, but not on Bailey. His 29-yard touchdown catch came in double coverage on the opposite side of the field from Bailey. He finished the game with six catches for 87 yards with the score. Twenty-four of those yards came directly against Bailey.
2005 at Denver: Twenty of Moss' 72 yards came directly against Bailey. He, nor his Raiders, scored a touchdown in the game.
We'd tell you about the matchups these two had against each other when Moss was in Minnesota and Bailey in Washington, but none exist. The Redskins and Vikings didn't play each other during Bailey's stint in D.C.
Bill Belichick vs. Mike Nolan
The new Broncos defensive architect is Mike Nolan, who has faced Bill Belichick-coached teams a number of times over his career.
1994 at Cleveland: Belichick's Browns lost to Nolan's Giants, 16-13. Vinny Testaverde threw two interceptions; Leroy Hoard rumbled for a touchdown and totaled 61 yards on 15 total touches.
2000 at N.Y. Jets: Belichick's Patriots lost to Nolan's Jets, 20-19. The Patriots tried to run at the Jets as Kevin Faulk rushed 21 times for 82 yards (also caught four passes for 23 yards). Drew Bledsoe threw the only touchdown.
2000 at New England: Belichick's Patriots lost to Nolan's Jets, 34-17. Drew Bledsoe threw three interceptions but ran for a score, as did Kevin Faulk.
2004 at New England: Belichick's Patriots beat Nolan's Ravens, 24-3. New England got it all done on the ground with Corey Dillon carrying 30 times for 123 yards and a touchdown -- and yes, Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs, Ed Reed and then-Baltimore linebacker Adalius Thomas were playing in the game. Tom Brady was harrassed, completing just 15 of 30 passes while not throwing a touchdown or an interception.
2008 at San Francisco: Belichick's Patriots beat Nolan's 49ers, 30-21. Kevin Faulk scored twice on the ground, Randy Moss had over 100 yards with a score of his own from Matt Cassel, who threw two interceptions.
Funny that the name that keeps coming up here is Kevin Faulk. The versatile veteran has 40 carries for 147 yards and three scores with 13 catches for 79 yards in the games he's gone up against Nolan-coached defenses. Only in the game against Nolan's Ravens was he not much of a factor.
Bill Belichick vs. Josh McDaniels
Obviously, Josh McDaniels has only coached against Belichick in Patriot practices. Their meeting on Sunday will be their first as opposing coaches.
We suspect that the Patriots defense will have a pretty big advantage in the game. After all, who knows McDaniels' tendencies better than New England? A similar advantage has helped the Patriots to a 6-2 record all-time against coaches who left Belichick's stable for a team of their own. That specifically does not bode well for the Broncos' offense since that's the side of the ball where McDaniels earned his reputation.
Frown on Brown?
Ronnie Brown used to own the Jets. In three games from 2006-07, Brown rushed for at least 110 yards per game with four total touchdowns. But he struggled against the Jets last year, barely touching the ball in two games and failing to score. He had 17 carries for 80 yards and seven catches for 43 yards combined -- a tribute to the Jets' vaunted front seven.
There's more -- Rex Ryan has had Brown's number also. Like many other players, Ryan got a good look at Brown twice last season as defensive coordinator of the Ravens. Brown ran against the Ravens twice, getting 27 yards on 13 carries in the regular season and 19 yards on 12 carries in the postseason. Brown fared a little better through the air in the postseason meeting, catching six passes for 43 yards with a score, but the bottom line is that Ryan stuffed Brown, including when he lined up in the Wildcat.
Now the Jets will get a look at Brown again, and this time they're packing one of the best defenses in the league on their trip to South Florida. They didn't do that last week as the Saints were able to push them around in the second half, but the Jets still have allowed just two rushing touchdowns on the year. Furthermore, Brown hasn't posted 100-yard games in back-to-back weeks since coming back from his 2007 ACL injury (he had a bye between his Week 3 and Week 5 100-yard games last season). Brown steamrolled the Bills for 115 yards and two touchdowns last week.
|Dallas Clark||Two TDs last year, three in last two at Tennessee|
|Mark Clayton||100 yards and/or TD in each of last three vs. Cincy|
|Jerricho Cotchery||TD in each of last two games at Miami (130 total yards)|
|Joe Flacco||280 yards, 2 TDs in last game vs. Cincinnati|
|Jerome Harrison||101 total yards, TD last year at Buffalo|
|Chris Johnson||96 total yards, TD in one '08 game vs. Colts|
|Thomas Jones||Two TDs, three 100-total-yard games in last four vs. MIA|
|Peyton Manning||Four total TDs, two INTs in two '08 games vs. Titans|
|Derrick Mason||91 yards, TD in last game against Bengals|
|Leon Washington||Three TDs in last three against Dolphins|
|Wes Welker||TD, 63 yards last year against Broncos|
|LenDale White||Two TDs at home vs. Colts last season|
|Joseph Addai||Two TDs, no 100-total-yard games in career vs. TEN|
|Cedric Benson||10 car., 17 yards in one game vs. BAL|
|Trent Edwards||One TD, three INTs last year vs. Browns|
|Kerry Collins||No TDs vs. Colts since joining Titans|
|Justin Gage||One catch (6 yards) last year vs. Colts|
|Ted Ginn Jr.||Eight grabs, 122 yards, one TD in four career games vs. NYJ|
|Todd Heap||One TD, no 50-yard games in last five vs. CIN|
|Dustin Keller||Two catches, 24 yards in two '08 games vs. Dolphins|
|Brandon Marshall||Six catches, 77 yards, no TDs last year vs. Pats|
|Chad Ochocinco||One TD, no 100-yard games in last six vs. BAL|
|Carson Palmer||Four TDs in last five overall vs. Ravens|
|Ray Rice||33 car., 105 yards, no TDs in two '08 games vs. CIN|
|Reggie Wayne||No TDs, no 100-yard games in last five vs. Titans|
|Ricky Williams||74 total rush yards in two games vs. NYJ last season|
How do you think history will treat you? E-mail your Fantasy Football questions to DMFantasyFootball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Attn: History Lessons ing the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state and we'll get to as many as we can.