Adam Levitan

Football Daily Dose

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Scheduling for Success

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The NFL season is a grind for serious fantasy owners. We scratch, claw and fight for every edge over the course of four months in an effort to get to our league’s playoffs. So imagine our frustration when we get to the playoffs and realize we have awful matchups. It’s like finding a new pair of boxers under the Christmas tree.

Now that we’re more than halfway through the season, we can safely make some conclusions when it comes to defenses. Here are some general thoughts.

* Darrelle Revis still shuts down opponents’ No. 1 receivers. Heading into last week, quarterbacks had a 2.9 passer rating when throwing at Revis and he had allowed just 10 receptions with one touchdown.

* The Steelers and Ravens remain elite. It’s easy to say that it’s a given these two units will be dominant every year, but they still have to do it. They are both in the top-6 in terms of scoring defense and run defense.

* The Colts’ defense is chicken soup for sick offenses. Their tiny secondary has no shot against big receivers and their speedy front seven is built to rush the passer with a lead, not play from behind. Yeah, they miss Peyton Manning too.

* The Rams’ run defense is among the worst we’ve seen. They are giving up 153.6 yards per game at 5.2 yards per carry. There’s no way to sugarcoat that.

OK, so with those general thoughts in mind, let’s get to the best and worst matchups. Since the majority of playoffs go down in Weeks 15 and 16, I am limiting the rankings to those two weeks.

1. TEXANS: vs. Panthers, at Colts -- It’s a bonanza for Arian Foster, who consistently shreds soft matchups. The Texans will likely be protecting a big lead in both spots and neither defense can stop the run. The Panthers are currently 27th against the run while the Colts are 31st.

2. BENGALS: at Rams, vs. Cardinals -- Even an unimpressive plodder like Cedric Benson will have quality RB2 status in these matchups. And rookie A.J. Green will have the potential for an explosion as well -- especially against the Rams. That one will be in a dome and the Rams’ secondary has been demolished by injury.

3. PATRIOTS: at Broncos, vs. Dolphins -- Yep, the rich get richer. For those trying to predict touches in New England’s backfield, it’s worth noting that BenJarvus Green-Ellis gets the majority of work when the Pats have a lead. It’s a good bet they’ll be winning for the majority of these two games.

4. TITANS: at Colts, vs. Jaguars -- We know how bad Chris Johnson has played this season. But in the seven weeks between now and Week 16, he’ll face the Panthers, Bucs, Bills, Colts and Jags. Contemplate that for a few minutes.

5. COWBOYS: at Bucs, vs. Eagles -- Neither of these teams can stop the run. By the time Week 15 rolls around, we’d expect DeMarco Murray to be the feature back and Felix Jones to be the third-down/change-of-pace option. It’s conceivable that both will be viable fantasy plays here.

1. RAMS: vs. Bengals, at Steelers -- Yikes. Steven Jackson has no prayer of running through these physical defenses and we know he can’t run around them anymore. The weather in that Week 16 game is also a concern for Sam Bradford and company.

2. SEAHAWKS: at Bears, vs. 49ers -- I dare you to name one player on the Seahawks you’d like to start in these matchups. Just one! Can’t do it.

3. 49ERS: vs. Steelers, at Seahawks -- It’s going to be tough sledding for Frank Gore here. The Steelers are ranked sixth against the run and the Seahawks are second in yards per carry allowed at 3.4.

4. GIANTS: vs. Redskins, at Jets -- Although the ’Skins can’t move the ball, they can still get after it on defense. Hakeem Nicks will likely have to deal with DeAngelo Hall and Darrelle Revis in back-to-back weeks. Obviously the Revis game in potential bad weather is the biggest concern.

5.CHARGERS: vs. Ravens, at Lions -- It’s two very difficult matchups, but at least the weather will be good in both.

OK, let’s get to Wednesday’s news:

Frank Gore (ankle) appeared gimpy in practice. It’s something to watch. … Daniel Thomas (hamstring) is not even on the injury report. … Joe McKnight (toe) missed practice. … Joseph Addai (knee) missed practice. Expect Delone Carter and Donald Brown to share the load. … Beanie Wells (knee) was limited in practice. He figures to play at less than 100 percent Sunday. … Ryan Mathews (groin) will play Thursday. … Darren McFadden (foot) will not play Thursday. … Mark Ingram (heel) returned to practice and appears on track to return. Bad news for Chris Ivory. … Ahmad Bradshaw did not practice. Hard to see him back this week and his touches figure to be limited upon his return.

Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) is on track to play Sunday barring a setback. … Jermaine Gresham (hamstring) is on track to play Sunday. … Antonio Gates (foot) put in a full week of practice ahead of Thursday’s game. … The Rams activated Mark Clayton (knee) from the PUP list. He’ll eventually push Austin Pettis for snaps in the slot. … Jason Hanson (knee) is questionable. … Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene (head) are fine. … Sebastian Janikowski (hamstring) is far from 100 percent. Look elsewhere. … Andre Johnson (hamstring) did not run Wednesday. We wouldn’t expect to see him until after the Week 11 bye. … Lee Evans (ankle) got back in a limited practice. … Santana Moss (hand) is expected to miss another three weeks.

Week 10 preview

Gregg Rosenthal looks at some players to consider adding to your lineup this week during his NBC Sports Talk appearance on Versus.

Adam Levitan is in his sixth season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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