Evan Silva

Matchups

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Matchups: Play Palmer

Friday, November 18, 2011



Buffalo @ Miami

Predictably crashing back to earth after his short-lived hot start, Ryan Fitzpatrick is the No. 20 fantasy quarterback over the past five weeks. In his last six games, Fitz has a 7:9 TD-to-INT ratio while being held under 200 yards four times. This matchup is favorable on paper against Miami's No. 25 pass defense, but the Dolphins' secondary is much tougher with top CB Vontae Davis back in the lineup. Fitzpatrick simply isn't playing well for QB1 usage, settling in as a two-quarterback league option only. ... Also working against Fitzpatrick is No. 1 receiver Stevie Johnson's shoulder injury. Johnson is tentatively expected to play, but may not be 100% healthy. It's worth recalling that, like Fitzpatrick, Johnson's numbers fell off a cliff down the stretch last season. After averaging six catches for 81 yards with nine touchdowns in Fitzpatrick's initial nine starts, Johnson dwindled to an average line of 5-55 with one score in the final five. Particularly with Bills offensive linemen dropping like flies, I wouldn't hold out hope for a resurgence from Buffalo's passing game.

David Nelson and Donald Jones could experience expanded roles if Johnson is limited against Miami. While neither is a reliable, high-upside fantasy contributor, they'd both be solid bets to lead the Bills in Week 11 targets. Nelson is the No. 33 overall fantasy receiver and has been a more consistent presence in Buffalo's offense than Jones. ... The Dolphins haven't allowed a touchdown to a tight end since Week 7, and Denver's Daniel Fells is the only tight end who's scored on Miami since Week 2. This bodes poorly for Scott Chandler, who needs TDs to matter in any given week. ... The Fins are defending the run well lately, but Fred Jackson has confirmed himself matchup-proof. In three previous games against top-11 run defenses this season, Jackson has two touchdowns and 254 rushing yards on 42 carries (6.05 YPC), averaging 125 total yards a game.

The Week 10 box score may indicate that the Dolphins' backfield has resumed committee status with Daniel Thomas seeing 17 carries and Reggie Bush 14 (plus four catches). Thomas, however, received six of his rushing attempts in fourth-quarter clock-killing mode, after a Bush touchdown run put Miami ahead for good, 20-9. Bush got the backfield's first five touches of the game. The Dolphins may get Thomas more and more involved as the season winds down, but there's little doubt that Bush is currently the lead back when games are in doubt. Over the last three weeks, Bush has averaged 18 touches for 105 total yards with three touchdowns. Thomas is averaging a pathetic 2.66 yards per carry since Week 3. Bush is the Fins' lone fantasy-relevant running back at the moment, and he's worth a long look as an RB2/flex against Buffalo's 23rd-ranked run defense.

In four career matchups with Buffalo, Brandon Marshall has racked up 340 yards and two scores on 34 receptions, good for an 8.5-catch, 85-yard average. With Matt Moore turning in back-to-back solid games, Marshall is teetering on WR1 status. He's also lapping the field in targets among Miami pass catchers with Moore under center: Marshall has 55 and Davone Bess is next closest with 33. In other words, when Moore drops back to throw, there's about a 35% chance he's going to Marshall. It's no surprise, then, that Marshall leads the league in "target rate." ... Here is the rest of Moore's target distribution: Bush 18, Brian Hartline 17, Anthony Fasano 15, Charles Clay 10. Beyond Marshall, there's nary a Fins pass catcher worth rostering in fantasy leagues, let alone starting. ... Moore has historically been incapable of sustained success, but he's now completing 63% of his passes, and that's all Marshall owners can ask. Two-quarterback leaguers could do worse than Moore against Buffalo, though. The Bills rank 27th versus the pass.

Score Prediction: Dolphins 21, Bills 17

4:05PM ET Games

Seattle @ St. Louis

Marshawn Lynch leads the NFL in touches over the past two weeks, and this matchup is right for another heavy, productive workload. As explained in the Browns-Jags breakdown, the St. Louis front seven allows massive holes through which even the league's worst running backs can glide unscathed. Lynch is worth flex consideration because of his Week 11 opponent; just don't count on long-term success. The Seahawks lost the entire right side of their line (RG John Moffitt, RT James Carpenter) to year-ending knee injuries this week, and continuity is pivotal for OL coach Tom Cable's zone-blocking scheme. ... Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin were both concussed in Week 10, but have been medically cleared to play. With Al Harris (knee) the latest to land on I.R., St. Louis has lost four of its top five cornerbacks since August. Set to square off with Rams LCB Justin King -- Pro Football Focus' 105th-rated corner out of 105 -- Rice is a WR2 in this matchup. ... Baldwin remains the second best bet on Seattle's roster for receiving stats, but he's hard to trust with a 38.5-yard average and no TDs since the Week 6 bye. ... Ben Obomanu and Big Mike Williams aren't worth fantasy roster spots. ... Tarvaris Jackson may be most adversely affected by Carpenter and Moffitt's losses. Their replacements will be Paul McQuistan and severe protection liability Breno Giacomini. Rams sack leader Chris Long will square off with Giacomini.

Here is Sam Bradford's target distribution since returning from his high ankle sprain two games ago: Brandon Lloyd 22, Austin Pettis 9, Greg Salas 9, Brandon Gibson 8, Steven Jackson 5. ... Bradford targeted Lloyd a team-high nine times last week despite Browns lockdown CB Joe Haden's shadow coverage. The Rams are forcing Lloyd the rock, and he will go from facing one of the NFL's top corners to one of the worst in Seahawks RCB Brandon Browner. I'd think of Lloyd as a legit top-five fantasy receiver in Week 11. ... Mark Clayton was not targeted in his 2011 debut last week, playing 10-of-63 snaps. He won't be a fantasy option until his role grows. ... Danario Alexander (hamstring), Gibson (groin), and Lance Kendricks (foot) have all been banged up and unproductive lately. Behind Lloyd, Pettis is the only Rams pass catcher worth a look in fantasy leagues. It's worth noting that the middle of Seattle's defense was open for much of last week's matchup with Baltimore, as Ed Dickson and Dennis Pitta combined for 21 targets, 14 receptions, 128 yards, and two touchdowns. As a slot receiver, Pettis runs virtually all of his routes over the middle. ... It's well known by now that Seattle has a run-tough defense, but it's also fair to wonder if they're springing some leaks. Over the past two games, Ravens and Cowboys rushers have tagged the Seahawks for 238 yards on 41 carries (5.80 YPC). S-Jax is playing too well to bench.

Score Prediction: Rams 23, Seahawks 17

Arizona @ San Francisco

Three weeks ago, it was reasonable to worry that John Skelton's inaccuracy would negatively impact Larry Fitzgerald's fantasy stats. Time has calmed those concerns, and Fitzgerald is now coming off his most high-scoring effort since the Kurt Warner era. Whereas Fitz managed an average of under five catches for 86 yards with two touchdowns in Kevin Kolb's seven starts earlier this season, the All-Pro wideout is averaging 6.3 catches for 89.5 yards with four TDs in Skelton's six career starts. Skelton is 2-0 so far and figures to continue to start over Kolb until he loses. ... Touched up for 311 yards, two touchdowns, and a 65.0 completion rate by Eli Manning last week, the secondary has been San Francisco's defensive weakness. Skelton isn't a realistic standard-league fantasy option, but he is aggressive with a big enough arm to be worth a look in two-QB leagues. ... Slot receiver Early Doucet will get the Carlos Rogers treatment on the heavy majority of his Week 11 snaps. Doucet plays more when Arizona falls behind, but ultimately both he and Andre Roberts offer little upside. ... Having failed to average 4.0 YPC in every game since Week 4, Beanie Wells is a flex option only against San Francisco's top-ranked run defense. He'd need to be healthier and playing far better in order to be a confident fantasy play in this matchup.

A matchup with Arizona's 24th-ranked pass defense might look good for Alex Smith on paper, but he simply lacks talent and passing volume to enter the QB1 realm. Weak armed and ineffective as realized by his own coach, Smith ranks 24th in pass attempts, 23rd in yards, and is tied for 18th in passing touchdowns. He's strictly a game manager, and that's never going to lead to top-15 quarterback stats. ... Vernon Davis is prone to getting stuck on the line blocking when the 49ers face elite pass rushers, but the Cardinals haven't got one. He'll give SS Adrian Wilson fits down the seam. ... Michael Crabtree's yardage numbers have dropped in four straight weeks, and he's scored once all year. While this is a favorable matchup in theory, Crabtree has proven unreliable even as a WR3 since Braylon Edwards returned from knee surgery. ... The last time we were worried about Frank Gore's (knee) availability for a game, the 49ers announced Kendall Hunter as their Week 4 starter. Gore promptly came "off the bench" to pound Philadelphia for 127 yards and a touchdown on 15 rushing attempts, also catching two passes for 12 yards. Hunter totaled 100 scoreless yards on 11 touches. In my view, the lesson learned is to always bet on Gore as opposed to against him. Hunter would be a low-end flex option with Gore fully expected to start.

Score Prediction: 49ers 20, Cardinals 17


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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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