Evan Silva


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Matchups: Benching Brady

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Minnesota @ Chicago

Jared Allen kick-started his season in Week 9, boding poorly for a Bears offense that essentially got last week off against a punchless Bills defense. Allen abused Arizona for 2.5 sacks, four tackles, a pass breakup, and a whopping 13 QB pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Allen's resurgence alone is reason enough to sit Jay Cutler and worry about his receiver corps. The Bears' offense shuts down when Cutler is under duress. ... In Week 9, Greg Olsen scored his first touchdown since Week 3. He saw a team-high eight targets as the Bears game planned to attack Buffalo over the middle. The strategy was somewhat successful, but it's just not Mike Martz's nature to sacrifice intermediate-to-deep shots to wideouts in favor of slower tight ends. Consider it a fluke game until proven otherwise. The Vikings are extremely stingy against TEs.

The Vikings' biggest defensive weakness is down the left sideline, where RCB Asher Allen has been abused. Allen (concussion) is in danger of missing this game, which could vault injury-prone rookie Chris Cook into the lineup. Already lacking ideal speed, Cook has torn both his right meniscus and left MCL since camp. Johnny Knox is the Bears' weak-side receiver and worth a long look in non-PPR leagues. ... Bears slot man Earl Bennett and flankers Devin Hester and Devin Aromashodu are all fantasy plays to avoid. Bennett's role is growing, but he'll face Vikes slot/LCB Antoine Winfield, who helped to shut down both Steve Breaston (3-28) and Early Doucet (1-2) last week. ... Bears beat reporters expect Martz to reopen the deep passing game Sunday, taking an emphasis off the run. Matt Forte's value is getting killed by his loss of goal-line carries to Chester Taylor, and he's not expected to be a focal point of Chicago's Week 10 game plan.

Percy Harvin vaulted to elite receiver status in a thrilling nine-catch, 126-yard game against the Cardinals in Week 9. Despite a painful ankle injury, Harvin saw a game-high 12 targets and now ranks 16th among fantasy receivers. Assuming his migraine allows, Harvin will continue to give his opponent fits. Burned relentlessly by Big Mike Williams and Steve Johnson in two of his last three games, Bears RCB Charles Tillman appears to be on his last legs. He'll be no match for Harvin when the two meet in the open field. Despite Randy Moss' departure, Harvin still plays plenty in the slot, where he is difficult to double team. ... Don't be fooled by Bernard Berrian's nine-catch, 89-yard game last Sunday. He's Roy Williams North, and it was Berrian's best yardage total since Week 13 of 2008. Behind Harvin, Visanthe Shiancoe is Brett Favre's preferred option.

The Soldier Field forecast is friendly, but Favre's career-high 446 yards from Week 9 should be approached with a grain of salt. He's been an assassin indoors in recent years, and returns outdoors in Chicago. The Cards also rank 27th against the pass, and Favre's 47 pass attempts were a high in his last 16 games. The Bears have given up a league-low five passing touchdowns and are allowing a league-low 6.0 yards per throw. It's not a good matchup. ... I was asked this week whether owners should grab Toby Gerhart as stretch-run insurance for Adrian Peterson. Handcuffs are overrated in fantasy, except when the backup running back is good. Gerhart isn't, struggling to the tune of 3.3 yards per carry and also failing in his third-down back role. He's best left on waiver wires. ... In six career meetings with Chicago, Peterson has scored an otherworldly 11 rushing touchdowns and is averaging 138 total yards per game. The Bears just can't stop him.

Houston @ Jacksonville

Vegas projects Texans-Jags to be Week 10's highest-scoring game, and my expectation is that the 50-point over-under will prove conservative. Jacksonville's defense sets up perfectly for a struggling Houston passing offense to catch fire for a stretch-run surge. The Jaguars surrender a league-high 8.7 yards per throw, and only two teams have allowed more passing scores. Ranked 14th among fantasy quarterbacks after last year's top-five finish, Matt Schaub is certainly hard to trust. But if he's going to have a breakout game, this matchup presents an ideal opportunity. ... Andre Johnson is averaging six catches for 87 yards with two touchdowns in his last three meetings with Jacksonville. He's an obvious elite play against the NFL's No. 28 pass defense.

Update: Jaguars RE Aaron Kampman, the team's sack leader, is expected to miss Sunday's game after suffering a knee injury on the practice field. First-round DT Tyson Alualu, another pass rusher, was also injured Thursday and is questionable for Week 10.

Arian Foster, the No. 1 overall player in fantasy, will square off with a Jaguars defense that ranks 22nd against the run and has allowed the second most rushing touchdowns in football. Foster defines "must-start." ... Owen Daniels would be a great play against a Jacksonville team giving up the seventh-most fantasy points to tight ends, but isn't close to 100 percent. His status won't be announced until just before game, and Daniels hasn't produced when trying to play through hamstring and knee injuries. Should Daniels sit out, Joel Dreessen would qualify as a top-12 TE1 after a solid five-catch, 66-yard effort against Miami in Week 9. ... Jacoby Jones has played ahead of Kevin Walter for two straight weeks, but has just 47 yards to show for it. You could do worse for a desperation WR3 play in such a favorable matchup, but Jones is far from a reliable option.

The weak spot in Houston's pass defense has, is, and will continue to be CB Kareem Jackson, whose confidence couldn't have been shot more than in Week 9, when the first-round pick gave up 55- and 28-yard scoring bombs to undrafted rookie Seyi Ajirotutu. Jackson has shuttled between right corner and left corner, but of late is seeing his most action on the right. It's the side against which a red-hot Mike Sims-Walker most often goes. Sims-Walker has TDs in three of his last four outings, and dropped eight grabs and 153 yards on Dallas in his last game. "MSW" has been maddeningly inconsistent, but he hasn't had this good of a matchup all year. ... Mike Thomas is likely to spend most of the day against LCB/slot corner Glover Quin. Thomas may lack MSW's upside, but is a more-than-adequate WR3 play against the Texans' No. 32 pass defense.

Chris Wesseling knocked David Garrard's matchup out of the park in Waiver Wired, with this line as the clincher: "Every quarterback (the Texans) face is the best in the league that week." Start 'em. ... Journeyman Randy McMichael became the latest tight end to destroy Houston's safeties in Week 9, scoring twice. The Texans and Bills are the worst two teams in tight end coverage, and it isn't close. No. 3 fantasy TE Marcedes Lewis is a highly recommended play. ... Houston didn't allow a single back to top 67 rushing yards in the first five weeks, but that trend has since been shattered. In their last three, opposing RBs are averaging a whopping 180.3 total yards per game against the Texans despite matchups with a Colts team in Week 8 that was without Joseph Addai and a Chargers team in Week 9 that lost starter Ryan Mathews in the first half. Maurice Jones-Drew had a season-best game before Jacksonville's Week 9 bye to rest up, and is an elite RB1.

Tennessee @ Miami

The Dolphins' QB change won't have a dramatic fantasy impact, but Chad Pennington can only pose an upgrade for Brandon Marshall's red-zone production. After finding the end zone 10 times in 15 games as a Bronco last year, Marshall scored once in eight games with Henne. Marshall is on pace for 104 catches, so it's not like the touchdown shortage is on him. He'll go against feisty, if at times over-aggressive Titans RCB Cortland Finnegan in this one. ... Among Miami receivers, Pennington has the most extensive rapport with slot man Davone Bess. Also a good complement for Pennington's noodle arm on short passes, Bess should continue to rack up major PPR points.

Chad Henne didn't play well enough to put the Fins over the top, but his benching seems like a panicked move after a three-pick game at Baltimore. Outside of 28 exhibition game passes, only the Fins' coaching staff has seen Pennington play recently (in practice) after his third throwing-arm surgery. His arm strength mediocre at best before the latest operation, Pennington brings with him a ball-control mentality that figures to show up in a heavier reliance on the run game. Ronnie Brown is coming off a season-high 99-total yard effort, also scoring for the first time since Week 1. Ricky Williams, meanwhile, had just two carries for one yard in Week 9. Game flow dictated Brown playing more against the Ravens due to his passing-down role, but it wouldn't surprise if he was utilized as the lead horse the rest of the way. Though Brown is only a low-end RB2 against Tennessee's No. 14 run defense, he has sneaky breakout appeal for the season's second half.

Randy Moss makes his Titans debut against a familiar opponent, Vontae Davis, who as a rookie last season held Moss catch-less in the final three quarters of Fins-Pats in Week 13. Davis was burned for a touchdown by Derrick Mason last week (just Mason's second all year), however, and according to Pro Football Focus allowed completions on 5-of-6 passes into his coverage. Moss also has a long history of dominating in his first game with a new team. His first NFL line (1996): 4-95-2. His first with Oakland (2005): 5-130-1. His first with New England (2007): 9-183-1. His first with the Vikings this year: 4-81-1. For the life of me, I couldn't find a game log for the 1996 Marshall Thundering Herd, but I think it's a safe bet Moss dominated in his college debut as well considering he tied Jerry Rice's single-season D-IAA record with 28 touchdown catches that year.

The running-game impact of Moss' addition won't just show up by way of teams pulling an eighth defender "out of the box." It's going to stretch the field. Sure, Chris Johnson had that to some degree with Kenny Britt, but Britt wasn't a consistent or tenured enough player to instill fear in defenses. Moss is, and will free up Johnson in the flats and underneath. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of Johnson's season is his passing-game production; he's on pace for 180 yards on 44 catches after posting a 50/503/2 line as a receiver last year. Expect a stretch-run surge in this area. ... Defensive attention on Moss typically opens up the field for others, e.g. Ronald Curry, Wes Welker, and Percy Harvin. The aforementioned three were "inside" receiver types, however, and the Titans don't go heavy on slot receivers due to frequent usage of two-tight end packages and Pro Bowl fullback Ahmad Hall. Don't expect an uptick in Nate Washington's production.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay

The Panthers informed Mike Goodson that he would start this game with Jonathan Stewart (concussion), DeAngelo Williams (foot), and Tyrell Sutton (ankle) all slated to be inactive. A kick returner and passing-down specialist, Goodson holds an unimpressive 2.60 career yards-per-carry average but ranks fourth on the Panthers in receptions despite having played the sixth fewest snaps among Carolina running backs and receivers. Rather than gear up to stop the run, the Bucs are expected to use Week 10 to jump-start their pass rush, as they've installed new blitz combinations after ranking dead last in the league in sacks during the first eight games. Against a Tampa defense that gives up 5.0 YPC and ranks 30th against the run, Goodson makes for an ideal flex start in PPR leagues. Though not a great bet for touchdowns, he shouldn't struggle to sprinkle 4-6 catches among his 15-18 touches Sunday.

Jimmy Clausen has been given the signal-calling reins following Matt Moore's season-ending injury, although if Week 9 was any indicator the rookie won't have a long leash. Clausen was yanked for ineffectiveness against the Saints after generating a worse-than-lousy 2.6 yards-per-pass attempt average and throwing a pick-six to Jabari Greer. Clausen has not shown the ability to connect with wide receivers this season, making Steve Smith an extremely risky and unfavorable WR3, even against a gambling Bucs pass defense. Brandon LaFell and David Gettis are clearly bench fodder. Goodson is probably the best bet to lead Carolina in receiving this week.

The year-ending loss of Dan Connor threatens to deal a major blow to the Panthers' rush defense. According to Pro Football Focus, no 4-3 middle linebacker in the league played the run better than Connor during the first eight games. Jon Beason moves inside, but Carolina will be forced to start Jordan Senn on the weak side going forward. A career special teamer, the former undrafted free agent out of Portland State has safety size at 5'11/224 and has appeared for just one defensive snap all season. Senn is a great pickup in IDP leagues, but should make life easy on opposing running games at the integral position in the Panthers' Cover-2 defense. Though LeGarrette Blount proved himself a risky fantasy option with just 13 carries last week, he did dominate the Bucs' rushing workload in the game's second half and should not struggle to fend off Cadillac Williams for early-down work. In a favorable matchup, Blount offers plenty of upside.

Update: The Panthers' latest depth chart lists Nic Harris as the club's first-team weak-side linebacker. It appears Senn will continue to focus on special teams. Harris is a converted college safety and was waived by the Bills in the offseason. He projects to struggle similarly in run defense.

On pace for 1,118 yards and ten TDs, Mike Williams has emerged as an every-week fantasy starter with at least 82 yards in four of his last five games and touchdowns in back-to-back efforts. The Bucs' passing game is especially dangerous when play-action is working, and should experience quite a bit more success than it did in Tampa's Week 2 matchup with Carolina, when Cadillac was still holding the offense hostage in a 27-carry, 51-yard performance. Play-action gets Williams open deep, and he projects to draw Panthers No. 2 CB Richard Marshall in coverage, as opposed to top CB Chris Gamble. ... Arrelious Benn has made two big plays in his last two games -- a 53-yard catch in Week 8 and a 14-yard touchdown in Week 9 -- but also has only two targets over that span. He won't be an option until his role increases. ... Kellen Winslow still hasn't scored a touchdown this season and has just 36 yards since Week 7. He ranks 22nd among fantasy tight ends. ... The No. 12 overall quarterback, Josh Freeman squares off with Carolina's top-five pass defense. Freeman is a QB2.

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva

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