Evan Silva


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Matchups: Running Up Hillis

Saturday, December 11, 2010

1:00PM ET Games

Cleveland @ Buffalo

Sunday's forecast for Ralph Wilson Stadium includes a 60 percent chance of snow and 14-17 MPH winds. The wind is minimally concerning, but the overall elements certainly could factor in with weak-armed quarterbacks on both sides. Deep threats like Mohamed Massaquoi and Lee Evans are safe to sit. Possession receivers like Steve Johnson and Ben Watson are unlikely to be as affected. ... Regardless, Peyton Hillis will be the premier fantasy play in a game Vegas projects to produce the fewest points across the Week 14 schedule. Getting the ball a league-high 27.8 times in his last five games, Hillis squares off with a Bills defense that ranks dead last against the run and has allowed the second most rushing scores in the AFC. If Delhomme is forced to check down often because he can't power passes downfield in the poor conditions, Hillis will be the recipient.

Tight end-desperate owners could do worse than Watson after last week's 100-yard game at Miami, but there's also plenty of room for disappointment. Watson has topped 62 yards three times this year, and following the previous two games he posted a combined one catch for 18 yards (including a Week 11 goose egg at Jacksonville). The Bills have been far stingier against tight ends of late, as no TE has topped 50 yards against them since Week 7 and the only tight end to score on Buffalo during that span was Greg Olsen in Week 9 from four yards out. Play Watson if your alternative is someone like Aaron Hernandez, but don't start him over Brandon Pettigrew or Chris Cooley.

Worsening Buffalo weather is bad news for the Bills' passing game, but not quite as disastrous as LT Demetrius Bell's collapse. Since playing passably early this season, Bell has fallen to pieces in pass protection of late. Vikings RE Jared Allen was the latest to dominate Bell in Week 13, registering a sack and four further QB hits and hurries according to Pro Football Focus, as well as causing Bell to false start. Ryan Fitzpatrick has topped one passing score in just one of his last six games. Now facing a Browns defense that ranks second in interceptions, Fitz safely is back to low-end QB2 status, where he belongs. ... It's fair to be concerned about Steve Johnson after a 36-yard game on four targets and two grabs, but now is no time to sit the No. 8 overall fantasy wideout. Johnson will match up with Browns rookie LCB Joe Haden for most of this one. ... Evans is the Bills' receiver to sit. He hasn't scored since Week 7 and has three or fewer catches in five straight.

Fred Jackson owners concerned with his Week 13 clunker (48 scoreless yards) and C.J. Spiller's return have received more reason to bench the Weeks 10-12 hero. Buffalo's crumbling offensive line will start Eric Wood (coming off knee injury, first career NFL start at center), LG Andy Levitre (horrible run blocker), and RG Ed Wang (second career NFL appearance). The bookends will be the aforementioned LT Bell and 6-foot-3 converted guard Mansfield Wrotto at right tackle. You couldn't name a worse starting five in football, which doesn't bode well against a Browns defense that has surrendered a league-low four rushing touchdowns and just barely allows over 4.0 yards per carry. If you're a competitive fantasy leaguer, you can do better than Fred Jackson this week.

NY Giants @ Minnesota

Regardless of the Vikings' Week 14 quarterback -- it's expected to be Brett Favre -- Sidney Rice played his way into fantasy lineups for good last Sunday. Drawing heavy attention from the Bills' secondary with Percy Harvin (migraine) inactive, Rice whipped constant double teams en route to a 5/105/2 line that could've been far bigger had Minnesota needed to throw in the second half of the blowout. Just as promisingly, Rice laid out for tough grabs to confirm that he's no longer worried about his surgically repaired hip. Though the Giants lead the NFC in pass defense, Rice will be a good weekly bet to pace the Vikings in targets, catches, and yards going forward. ... The G-Men have allowed only two TDs to tight ends, and only three teams have given up fewer fantasy points to the position. If one touchdown in his last 11 games and a 27.5 yards-per-game average dating back to Week 2 weren't enough for you to bench Visanthe Shiancoe, his poor matchup should be.

Showing no signs of the previous week's ankle sprain, Adrian Peterson gashed Buffalo for his second best YPC average (6.69) of the season last week. Peterson's cutting ability on the ankle was most impressive, as he routinely made defenders miss and put the entire Bills defense off balance on behind-the-line jukes prior to his 43-yard touchdown dash. The Giants' No. 7 run defense ranking looks good on paper, but they're permitting a whopping 5.69 yards per carry to opposing running backs in their last four games, with three rushing scores against. This isn't a difficult matchup. ... Toby Gerhart's role was expanded on early downs last week due to the Vikings' concern with Peterson's ankle. He'll return to clear backup status on Sunday. ... Assuming he's active Harvin's big-play ability is impossible to sit in leagues that use a WR3, but the Giants have stifled slot receivers all season. Ask Jason Avant (2/39), Austin Collie (4/25), and Earl Bennett (4/26) about it.

UPDATE: Harvin is listed as doubtful on the injury report and is highly likely to be inactive Sunday. Rice is a safe bet to lead the Vikings in pass targets.

The Giants are tentatively expected to get back Hakeem Nicks (leg) and Steve Smith (pectoral), although both may be on snap counts. As talented as the two are, an ideal fantasy scenario would be to see Nicks and Smith's roles and health reestablished before plugging them into lineups. ... If they're both active, Nicks would be the stronger bet as a WR3. Smith plays flanker in two-receiver sets and the slot in three-wide formations -- the same positions covered by shutdown Vikings CB Antoine Winfield. Nicks should see a lot of burnable RCB Asher Allen. ... Mario Manningham will continue to get plenty of playing time for usage as a WR3. Manningham's mental lapses aside, his vertical skills are difficult to discount indoors against a Vikings defense that's vulnerable in the air.

Eli Manning had multiple touchdown passes in seven straight games entering last week's rout of Washington, an easy win that necessitated just 15 pass completions after the G-Men sprinted out to a 28-0 lead. Assuming Nicks and Smith are back at least as part-timers, Manning qualifies as a respectable low-end QB1. ... Kevin Boss takes the biggest hit with New York's wideouts returning. He can go back to blocking with Smith hogging possession targets. ... Ahmad Bradshaw's short-area quicks and shiftiness are likely to pose more matchup problems for The Williams Wall than Brandon Jacobs' hard-charging style, though the latter remains worthy of high-end flex consideration. Despite "losing" his starting job, Bradshaw has emerged as the better bet for touches and all-purpose yardage. Bradshaw also scored both of his touchdowns last week on red-zone runs.

Cincinnati @ Pittsburgh

Sunday's Bengals-Steelers forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of snow and temps in the mid-30s. Wind shouldn't be a factor, but combine the elements with this game's Vegas projection as the lowest scoring of Week 14, and it's a good tiebreaker for lineup decisions on borderline starts like Chad Ochocinco, Cedric Benson, Jermaine Gresham, Hines Ward, and the Steelers' tight end. ... Ochocinco looks like a particularly poor bet. Stinko hasn't topped 54 yards against Pittsburgh since 2007, with Ike Taylor owning him to the tune of 15 yards on one catch earlier this season. ... If you're starting Benson, you're essentially gambling that a player who's scored a rushing touchdown in 5-of-12 games this season will find pay dirt against a Steelers defense that has given up the fewest rushing scores in the league. Benson almost certainly isn't going to top 60 yards.

Playing the majority of his snaps on the right side of the formation, Terrell Owens will face off with Steelers LCB Bryant McFadden for most of this game. Opponents are picking apart McFadden, and T.O. posted a 10/141/2 line against Pittsburgh in Week 9. Owens is the only recommended fantasy play on the Bengals' roster this week. ... Carson Palmer could potentially end up with a bunch of pass attempts after his team falls behind big early, but the declining passer's inability to power the football downfield bodes exceptionally poorly in inclement weather. Palmer has a 6:8 TD-to-INT ratio in his last four games. He's averaging 204.7 passing yards per game in his last three.

The Bengals' secondary has most of its members back healthy, but it's still surrendering yards and scores by the truckload. Cincy has been lit up for 300-plus yards and multiple passing TDs (six combined) by Ryan Fitzpatrick and Drew Brees in two of its last three games. The biggest problem is defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer's inability to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks, as his unit ranks dead last in the league in sacks. Ben Roethlisberger is awfully dangerous with all day to throw. ... Shaky weather is much more of a concern for quarterbacks with modest arm strength. Big Ben has a cannon and should not struggle to connect with his deep threats. Mike Wallace's move into the No. 1 receiver role couldn't have been more evident than last Sunday night, when he was used heavily on screens and short, timing passes, a role once filled by Hines Ward. Wallace destroyed the Bengals for 110 yards and a score on five catches last time out. Start 'em.

Outside of what's proven a fluky 7/107 line against Terrence McGee-less Buffalo in Week 12, Hines Ward has all but vanished from the Steelers' passing attack since the first month and a half. He's bested 28 yards just the one time in his last six games, and hasn't found the end zone since Week 9. Held to 10 yards on three catches in his last date with Cincinnati, Ward bottomed out last week with four targets and one reception. In the fantasy playoffs, here's hoping you can do better. ... Has any team flopped against the run as badly from this season to last as the Bungles? Last year's No. 7 overall unit now ranks 24th and surrenders 4.60 yards per carry. If undrafted rookie Chris Ivory can dump 117 yards and two touchdowns on Cincy, the sky is the limit for Rashard Mendenhall.

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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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