Thursday Night Football
NY Jets @ Denver
After unsuccessfully pouring their best efforts into a Week 10 game plan that resulted in a 37-16 manhandling by the Patriots, the Jets had three days -- two practices -- to heal up and prepare for the NFL's most unorthodox offense. An elite pass defense doesn't help much when the opponent doesn't throw, and the Jets' run defense has been mediocre all year. How effective can Darrelle Revis really be when he's lined up wide of a zone-read formation, covering a receiver who might have caught the football once or twice all game, anyway? Tim Tebow is a top-five quarterback in fantasy points per game over the last month, and will continue to rack up all-purpose production until defenses stop the spread option. On a short week after a cross-country flight into the Mile-High altitude, New York isn't positioned well to do so. At the end of halves and particularly on rushing attempts Nos. 30-45, the Jets' big uglies are going to be gassed. ... Here is Tebow's target distribution on the season: Eric Decker 25, Eddie Royal 24, Demaryius Thomas 15, Matt Willis 8, Daniel Fells 7. ... Decker has a touchdown in three straight games and is the No. 4 overall fantasy receiver during that span. I'd worry about Decker getting the Revis treatment, but he's clearly emerged as Tebow's favorite target and is Denver's lone viable fantasy pass catcher.
Here are opposing feature backs' carry-yardage-touchdown totals against the Jets' defense this season: BenJarvus Green-Ellis 27-136-2, Darren McFadden 19-171-2, Maurice Jones-Drew 18-88-0, Fred Jackson 18-82-0, Ray Rice 25-66-1, Felix Jones 17-44-1, Reggie Bush 10-71-0, Ryan Mathews 13-39-0. Combined, they're averaging 4.74 yards per carry. The Jets aren't used to defending tailbacks in the fashion Willis McGahee and Lance Ball will be used Thursday night, and haven't had enough success against pro-style runs for this to be a prohibitive matchup in the first place. Medically cleared after his Week 10 hamstring strain, McGahee carries too much risk for RB2 confidence but is worth flex consideration in this matchup. ... Ball racked up a career-high 30 rushing attempts in last week's win over the Chiefs, but has been a change-of-pace runner only with McGahee healthy this season. Unless you're willing to gamble on McGahee aggravating the pulled hamstring during this game, Ball wouldn't be usable in a standard fantasy league.
Despite Champ Bailey's sticky coverage, the Broncos' defense has allowed wideouts to clear 100 yards six times this year, and 90 yards eight times, all by either the opposing No. 1 or 2 receiver. From that standpoint, Santonio Holmes doesn't have a difficult matchup. The Jets also made an obvious effort to get Holmes involved early last week, as Mark Sanchez hit him twice for 43 yards on New York's opening possession. Holmes has settled in as a WR3 only, but he's a pretty darn good one. ... Plaxico Burress rather flukily has four touchdowns in the last three weeks. He's averaging 40.1 yards a game. Plax is never going to rack up many catches or yards, so he'll prove a worthy fantasy start only if he finds pay dirt. Will he at Denver? Your guess is as good as mine. ... Here is Sanchez's target distribution since the Jets' Week 8 bye: Holmes 14, Burress 13, Jeremy Kerley 13, Dustin Keller 11. Keller ranks fourth there, but he could benefit from Kerley's (knee) absence on Thursday night. A slot receiver, Kerley runs most of his routes over the middle. Keller's recent production suggests a low "ceiling," but he's at least on the TE1 radar for this one.
The Jets veered from the Ground & Pound against the Pats, finishing with an uncharacteristic 39 passes compared to 20 runs by tailbacks. Shonn Greene will continue to offer limited upside due to limited talent, but his volume should be restored this week. It certainly can't hurt that New York will be without potential goal-line vulture LaDainian Tomlinson (knee). Denver has allowed Chiefs and Raiders tailbacks to average 4.93 yards per carry in the last two games, so the matchup is good, too. Greene is a functional RB2 with more scoring potential than usual. ... Mark Sanchez is the No. 13 fantasy quarterback in points per game, squaring off with a Broncos defense that has surrendered the second most passing touchdowns in football and an 18:6 TD-to-INT ratio against. Denver is one of only two teams letting opposing quarterbacks post a passer rating of over 100. Sanchez is always a weak standard league fantasy play, but he's a terrific two-QB league option.
Score Prediction: Broncos 23, Jets 20
Check out Gregg Rosenthal's analysis on the key fantasy players in tonight's matchup.