MNF Matchup: Skins @ CowboysMonday, September 26, 2011
Monday Night Football
Washington @ Dallas
ESPN's Ed Werder reported Monday that Dez Bryant (quadriceps) was especially punctual to treatment sessions all last week because Bryant knows he's being counted on for a "major role" in Monday night's matchup with the Redskins. Fellow starting receiver Miles Austin (hamstring) will not play. A dominant physical talent who stands to benefit statistically from Austin's absence, Bryant is a must-start WR2 in this game. ... With Austin definitely out and Bryant perhaps less than 100 percent, this matchup has played out well for Jason Witten. Behind only Austin, Witten amassed a Cowboys-high 14 targets for seven receptions and 102 yards with Bryant out of the lineup last week. Witten has tortured the Washington secondary in recent meetings, racking up at least 117 yards in two of the past three. ... Ranked ninth among quarterbacks in fantasy scoring to begin Week 3, Tony Romo remains a shoo-in top-10 QB play despite injured ribs. His "slightly" punctured lung has healed completely, and Romo will start the game. On a related note, the Cowboys plan to keep third-string quarterback Stephen McGee active, suggesting they're not fully confident Romo will make it through four quarters. McGee's activation might mean nothing, of course, but it's a situation to be aware of.
There are too many factors working against Felix Jones for confident Week 3 fantasy use. With Jones coming off a dislocated shoulder, both DeMarco Murray and Tashard Choice threaten to have expanded roles against a Washington defense that ranks sixth against the run and gets back in-the-box strong safety LaRon Landry, one of the NFL's premier run-stopping defensive backs. Jones will play, but he's yet to "earn" a fantasy start in a dicey situation with 86 total yards and a miserable 2.65 YPC average through two games. We're talking about a banged-up, potential committee back who isn't playing well. Sit 'em. ... Kevin Ogletree failed to capitalize on Bryant's Week 2 inactivity, managing two catches for 50 yards against a 49ers secondary that is worse than the Redskins'. Ogletree didn't so much as command a target until the second half, and just two of Tony Romo's 33 pass attempts were intended in his direction. Romo showed more confidence in Jesse Holley after Austin's late-game hamstring strain. Don't pick up Ogletree.
Rex Grossman kicked off last week's game with interceptions on back-to-back drives, but showed resilience (and improved his job security) by engineering a comeback win. It's worth noting that Santana Moss miscommunicated his route on Rexy's first pick, and Cardinals CB A.J. Jefferson held Anthony Armstrong on the second. It feels uncomfortable defending Rex Grossman, but he's emerged as a reasonable QB1 option with 40.6 throws per game and 11 touchdowns in five starts as a Redskin. It certainly doesn't hurt that Dallas is susceptible to the pass. Alex Smith and Mark Sanchez -- both bottom-ten NFL passers -- have combined for a 61.8 completion rate, 7.56 YPA, four touchdowns, and two interceptions against them. And washed-up 33-year-old LCB Terence Newman's return is hardly a difference maker. ... Through two games, tight ends have licked the Cowboys defense for 10 grabs, 150 yards, and two touchdowns. Fred Davis is a top-five TE play.
Jabar Gaffney remains a low-level WR3 lacking big-play ability. ... Santana Moss ripped up Dallas for 14 catches, 149 yards, and two touchdowns in two 2010 meetings. Start 'em. ... 3-4 defenses like the Cowboys' are notorious for struggling against zone-running schemes like Washington's. The Redskins' carry distribution is just too murky for fantasy comfort. Coach Mike Shanahan rode the hot hand in Week 2, giving big-play rookie Roy Helu 13 touches en route to 112 yards (8.69 average). Through two games, starter Tim Hightower has 49 touches for 203 yards (4.14). Shanahan is a big fan of per-play production stats, often citing them in pressers with the media. Owners with depth may want to give this backfield a week to play out, before targeting the Skins' Week 4 game against the Rams for a fantasy start. It's perhaps notable that ESPN's Adam Schefter drafted Helu in his fantasy league on September 1. (Click here for proof.) Schefter wrote a book with Shanahan when he was on the Denver Post Broncos beat in 1999.
Score Prediction: Redskins 24, Cowboys 23