Evan Silva


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Matchups: Play Palmer

Friday, November 18, 2011

Oakland @ Minnesota

Here is Carson Palmer's target distribution since replacing Kyle Boller in the third quarter of Week 7: Denarius Moore 22, Jacoby Ford 10, Michael Bush 8, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Marcel Reece, and Louis Murphy 6. ... Moore has emerged as Palmer's go-to guy, securing 10 of the targets for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Oakland may have to throw to move the ball in this game because Minnesota's run defense is so stout, and Moore's matchup was always going to be favorable against a Vikings secondary that will be minus its top two corners (Antoine Winfield -- clavicle, Chris Cook -- suspension). Start Moore and don't look back. ... As the targets suggest, the rest of the Raiders' pass catchers are hands-off fantasy commodities until one separates from the pack. In terms of receiver-cornerback matchups, my guess would be that Heyward-Bey starts at split end and faces off with RCB Cedric Griffin for most of this game. As Oakland's starting flanker, Moore figures to draw oft-burned LCB Asher Allen. Heyward-Bey's matchup isn't poor, but it's hard to rely on wideouts coming off zero-target games. DHB has one target in Palmer's two starts.

Palmer has shown enough velocity and downfield accuracy to be considered a high-end QB1 in what might be his most favorable matchup all season. Having gone 33-of-55 (60%) for 631 yards (11.47 YPA) and five touchdowns through two starts, I wouldn't be opposed to rolling with Palmer the rest of the way while trading my "old" QB1 for lineup help elsewhere. Palmer has been extremely impressive. ... Rotating slot receivers T.J. Houshmandzadeh and Chaz Schilens have combined for 55 yards on four catches and no scores over the past two games. Avoid. ... Kevin Boss and Brandon Myers are non-factors to an even greater extent. Palmer rarely threw to tight ends in Cincinnati, and nothing has changed so far in Oakland. ... The Vikings rank sixth against the run and permit just 3.69 yards per carry, so this will be the toughest matchup Michael Bush has faced since replacing Darren McFadden (foot) as the Raiders' top tailback a month ago. It is worth nothing, though, that the Minnesota run defense has not yet faced a top-seven rushing offense, and the Raiders are No. 4. Bush is averaging 28 touches whenever he gets a start under Hue Jackson, so the volume is sure to be there. In spite of the difficult opponent, Bush is a borderline RB1 following a 10-day layoff to rest his legs after last Thursday night's 30-carry effort.

While Oakland's front seven returns fresh from a long layoff after last Thursday’s win, the Vikings are on a short week following a blowout Monday night loss. Christian Ponder got beat up in Green Bay, absorbing three sacks and six hits via Clay Matthews & Co. Ponder has flashed long-term promise through three starts, but he's completing just 50.5% of his throws with a 6.70 per-attempt average and has yet to clear 240 yards. The Vikes will likely remain light on passing-game volume going forward, hurting wideouts Devin Aromashodu and Michael Jenkins' chances of reaching fantasy viability. ... Aromashodu turned in a Berrianesque Week 10 effort, catching none of his six targets. He's not worth owning in 10- and 12-team leagues. ... Jenkins has cleared 50 receiving yards in 2-of-9 games. Ponder isn't throwing to Jenkins much. ... Here is Ponder's target distribution over the past two games: Percy Harvin 13, Aromashodu 12, Visanthe Shiancoe and Kyle Rudolph 8, Jenkins and Adrian Peterson 6. ... Shiancoe and Rudolph might be worth a look in fantasy leagues if they were one player, but they're canceling each other out at this point.

Harvin played 32-of-62 snaps (51.6%) at Green Bay, in part because he missed some action with an in-game rolled ankle. While Harvin would offer significantly more upside if he were a full-time player, the Vikings can at least be counted on to get him the rock. Harvin received nine Week 10 touches, taking them for 70 total yards. He's a WR3 with WR2 upside for the stretch run, pending good health. ... Peterson's 14-51-1 line may not have secured many Week 10 fantasy wins, but the season-low carry total bodes well for his stamina and explosiveness in a matchup that's ripe for the picking. The Raiders rank 25th against the run and are permitting an AFC-high 5.16 yards per carry. In four home games on the Mall of America Field turf this season, Peterson has racked up seven TDs and 495 yards on 95 carries (5.21 YPC) with a 134-total yard average. With Arian Foster on a bye, Peterson is fantasy football's premier running back play for Week 11.

Score Prediction: Raiders 27, Vikings 20

Tampa Bay @ Green Bay

As noted in this space last week, the Bucs have been annihilated by the run without DT Gerald McCoy this season. The trend continued in Tampa's 37-9 home loss to Houston. In McCoy's three missed games so far, Bears, Saints, and Texans backs have torched the Buccaneers for 416 combined yards and six touchdowns on 72 carries (5.78 YPC). If James Starks is finally going to have a breakout game, there's a strong chance it will happen this week. Since the Packers' Week 8 bye, Starks has 30 touches compared to Ryan Grant's 13. Starks' yards-per-carry average is 4.96 during that span; Grant's 1.83. The Packers are destroying opponents at Lambeau, winning all four home games by at least eight points with an average score of 40-17. If this game plays out as it theoretically ought to, Starks should rack up carries in keep-the-lead mode. I like Starks as a solid flex play with upside in Week 11. ... In Green Bay's previous three games against the Cover-2 defenses of Minnesota (twice) and Chicago, Jermichael Finley scored four touchdowns and caught 12 passes for 165 yards. Finley's reception and yardage totals have been underwhelming this season, but he has a favorable matchup this week against the Bucs' Cover 2-style scheme.

Aaron Rodgers leads the league in touchdown passes, yards per attempt, completion rate, and passer rating. In his last seven home games, Rodgers has accounted for 30 touchdowns -- an average of 4.3 per game. He's unstoppable. ... The Bucs rank 27th against the pass, 31st in sacks, and last in yards-per-pass attempt allowed. Whereas this is a nightmare matchup for Tampa, it's a dreamy one for Green Bay passing-game members. ... Jordy Nelson is averaging under six targets per game, but rare is the occasion that he's not open. He's on pace for over 1,125 yards and 12 scores. ... The Bucs have kept Aqib Talib at left corner only lately, with Ronde Barber at his usual RCB spot on early downs and guarding the slot in the nickel. Greg Jennings runs most of his routes at LWR and in the slot, so he's going to spend a lot of time in Barber's coverage. Appearing to fall off a cliff this season, the 36-year-old is Pro Football Focus' 103rd-rated cornerback in coverage, out of 105. ... James Jones entered last Monday night with just six targets in his last three games. He'd caught all six. Jones was targeted once against the Vikings, and caught it for a gain of nine. He has zero chance at fantasy reliability on this kind of usage.

After another clunker last week, LeGarrette Blount is averaging 9.5 touches for 48.5 yards with no touchdowns when the Bucs lose (four-game sample) this season. He's scored three TDs and is averaging 21 touches for 102 yards when Tampa wins (three games). Start Blount if you believe the Bucs can maintain a lead in this game. ... Since Week 3, Josh Freeman is 158-of-266 (59.4%) for 1,672 yards (6.29 YPA) with a 7:11 TD-to-INT ratio. They're bottom-barrel QB2 numbers. The Packers lead the NFL in interceptions, so this is a poor matchup for a turnover-prone quarterback. It is a good matchup for Green Bay's fantasy defense. ... Mike Williams was shut down by Johnathan Joseph last week and has not scored a touchdown since Week 1. He's cleared 60 yards once since the season's first month. Williams is a low-end WR3 option. ... Playing 43-of-63 snaps (68%) in Week 10, Arrelious Benn caught two balls for 47 yards. Dezmon Briscoe played 19 downs (30%) and didn't catch a pass after out-producing Benn in the Buccaneers' previous two games. Neither is a desirable fantasy wideout. ... Preston Parker is averaging 32 yards in his last five games. He has clearly overtaken Sammie Stroughter as Tampa Bay's full-time slot receiver, but is barely worth owning in fantasy leagues. ... Kellen Winslow is averaging a career-low 9.1 yards per reception and ranks 19th among tight ends in fantasy scoring. Aim higher in Week 11.

Score Prediction: Packers 38, Bucs 16

Carolina @ Detroit

The Panthers didn't make any lineup changes coming off their Week 9 bye. DeAngelo Williams continued to start despite Jonathan Stewart's superior performance and per-play production, and Brandon LaFell remains a part-time player behind Steve Smith and Legedu Naanee. Stewart has a favorable matchup against the Lions' No. 27 run defense, a unit yielding 4.94 yards per carry, but "Daily Show" will need a sudden and perhaps unforeseen increase in role to fulfill his fantasy potential. He's just a flex option. ... Williams is averaging 51 total yards per week with one touchdown on the season. It's hard to imagine using him at all, even against the NFL's poorest defenses. ... In Week 10 against Tennessee, LaFell managed one 18-yard catch on two targets. Seeing nine targets, Naanee caught eight balls for 75 yards, a significant chunk of which came in late-game garbage time of Carolina's 30-3 blowout loss. Naanee benefited both from the Titans' defensive strategy on Smith and lopsided score. You'd have to be convinced a similar scenario will play out in this game to give Naanee any Week 11 fantasy consideration. LaFell is a WR5.

Lions coordinator Gunther Cunningham runs an extremely aggressive, up-tempo defense that won't necessarily use the same bracketing tactics employed by Tennessee to stop Steve Smith. Only Packers-Bucs has a higher Week 11 over/under than Panthers-Lions, and Green Bay is a 14.5-point favorite. In other words, this is the best bet for a shootout among Sunday's games. As the NFC's leader in receiving yardage and league leader in 20-plus yard catches, Smith is set up nicely for a bounce-back effort. ... This game will be played beneath the Ford Field dome. Maybe it's a personal preference thing -- there's only debatable statistical evidence to back it up -- but I love using fantasy players indoors during the winter months. The Lions' No. 4 pass defense poses a tough matchup for Cam Newton on paper, but Newton has solidified himself as an every-week starter by ranking third among quarterbacks in fantasy points through nine weeks. Shake off last Sunday's clunker and confidently play Newton as a top-five quarterback in a potentially high-scoring affair.

After watching, then re-watching Detroit's Week 10 loss to Chicago, I tend to agree that Matthew Stafford's four-interception game was more attributable to high winds and poor decision making than his broken right (throwing) index finger. Seven dropped passes certainly didn't help, and as a Chicagoan I can attest that Sunday's winds were swirling with gusts in the 30-45 MPH range. Stafford now returns to the friendly confines of Ford Field, where he's collected a 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio and 247-yard average in four games this season. The Panthers do rank a solid-looking 14th in pass defense, but that's in large part due to the fact that they've faced the third fewest pass attempts football. Detroit's offense is second in pass attempts, so tendencies suggest the Lions will keep on airing it out. Stafford may not be a top-five quarterback play this week, but he's definitely in the top ten. ... Calvin Johnson figures to draw Chris Gamble for most of this game, three weeks after abusing Champ Bailey for a 6-125-1 line. With at least 81 yards and/or a touchdown in 9-of-9 games this season, Megatron has proven matchup-proof and is the No. 1 overall fantasy receiver.

Titus Young (7-74), Nate Burleson (8-83), and Tony Scheffler's (3-37-1) Week 10 stats were all inflated by Stafford's franchise record-setting 63 pass attempts at Soldier Field. While it's not crazy to believe one of the trio will have a big week in this potential shootout, nothing has changed in terms of their usage and lack of fantasy reliability. Young, Burleson, and Scheffler's temporarily increased roles did affect Brandon Pettigrew (5-38), with an emphasis on temporarily. Keep in mind that the Panthers have been particularly generous to tight ends, allowing opponents at the position to rack up an average of five receptions for 73 yards per week. My money would be on Pettigrew ranking second on the Lions in receiving in this game, much as he has all season. ... Newly re-signed Kevin Smith leapfrogged Keiland Williams for the Lions' No. 2 backfield spot last week, playing 28 snaps compared to Williams' six. Starter Maurice Morris was in for 44 plays, also leading the way with 11 touches. The Panthers rank 27th against the run and have allowed an NFL-high 12 rushing touchdowns, so this is as good a week as any to use Morris in a flex spot. Smith is worth monitoring in fantasy leagues. Williams can be safely sent back to waiver wires.

Score Prediction: Lions 30, Panthers 24

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Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
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