Evan Silva


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Matchups: Play Palmer

Friday, November 18, 2011

4:15PM ET Games

Tennessee @ Atlanta

Matt Ryan didn't play nearly as well in Week 10 as his 351 yards and two touchdowns suggest, and he'll now square off with a Titans secondary that thoroughly shut down Cam Newton and Steve Smith last Sunday. Ryan was 10-of-18 for 122 yards and no scores at halftime, before no-huddle, hurry-up mode translated to 34 second-half pass attempts. While Tennessee's defense has seemed up and down this season, the play of the pass defense has been consistently good, particularly at cornerback. As he's been all year, Ryan is just a borderline starter. He's the No. 11 overall fantasy quarterback. ... In four home games, Michael Turner has five touchdowns and is averaging 21.5 carries for over 101 yards. Tennessee plays the pass far better than the run, ranking 22nd in rush defense and surrendering nearly 4.4 yards a carry. Be sure to sell Turner high immediately after this game. His next two matchups are against Houston and Minnesota's top-six run defenses, and if this season ends anything like the last, Turner will be out of gas by the fantasy playoffs.

Julio Jones has battled pulls to both of his hamstrings this season, and the Falcons' actions this week indicate they plan to hold him out against Tennessee. Jones hasn't participated in a single practice. Said coach Mike Smith, "We have to make sure we make the right decision for putting a player back out on the field for a short-term goal and hurt us for a long-term goal." Harry Douglas racked up 133 yards on eight Week 10 catches, though he had just one reception at halftime, before Ryan's pass attempts spiked in the final two quarters. Douglas plays often in the slot, so he figures to match up frequently with Cortland Finnegan on passing downs. Finnegan is playing at a borderline All-Pro level. ... Roddy White has the best matchup among Falcons receivers. White plays the majority of his snaps at flanker and will face LCB Jason McCourty for much of Sunday. McCourty has been solid, but overall is still the Titans' weakest corner in coverage. ... Whereas Tennessee's defense gets consistently effective cornerback play, the safeties are often exposed. It shows up statistically in opposing tight ends' production. Over the last six games, the Titans have allowed five touchdowns to tight ends and 35 catches for 472 yards. It's a weekly average of 79 yards on just under six receptions, and bodes well for Gonzalez’s Week 11 matchup.

I re-watched Titans-Panthers in hopes of seeing increased explosiveness from Chris Johnson in his season-best fantasy game (27-130-1, 4-44). I came away disappointed. While Johnson ran hard after contact on a few occasions, ultimately his speed and quickness are ordinary, and his effort remains inconsistent snap to snap. Johnson benefited from the widest lanes he's witnessed all year against Carolina's No. 28 run defense, in addition to clock-killing, blowout mode after the Titans surged to a 17-0 halftime lead. Now facing a Falcons defense that ranks third against the run and hasn't allowed a rushing score since Week 6, don't be surprised if Johnson goes back in the tank on Sunday. Consider him a risky, low-end RB2/flex. ... Here is Matt Hasselbeck's target distribution over the past three games: Damian Williams 19, Johnson 18, Nate Washington 16, Lavelle Hawkins and Jared Cook 13, Javon Ringer 11. ... It's fair to wonder if Williams has passed Washington as Tennessee's No. 1 receiver. In addition to the edge in targets, Williams has more yards than Washington in each of the last three weeks. He's also got a more favorable Week 11 matchup. Williams will spend most of this game in burnable RCB Dunta Robinson's coverage, while Washington deals with LCB Brent Grimes. ... Whereas Atlanta ranks third against the run, the Falcons' pass defense is a vulnerable 23rd. Hasselbeck is a respectable two-QB league play.

Score Prediction: Falcons 24, Titans 17

San Diego @ Chicago

The Bears' in-season offensive transformation is commonly discussed, but their sudden defensive dominance has played the biggest role during a four-game win streak. In the last month, Chicago has limited quarterbacks to 111-of-194 passing (57.2%) for 1,082 yards (5.58 YPA), three passing scores, and nine interceptions. And it isn't as if the Bears are playing chump opponents. They've faced Matthew Stafford, a healthy Michael Vick, and Josh Freeman consecutively, and that trio has accounted for all nine picks. Particularly with the elements threatening to be an issue at Soldier Field, this will be a daunting matchup for NFL interceptions leader Philip Rivers. Rivers is playing terribly, and won't have LT Marcus McNeill (neck) to guard against Julius Peppers. If you've seen replacement left tackle Brandyn Dombrowski play this season or last, you'll know Rivers is best left on Week 11 fantasy benches. ... This is obviously a concern for Vincent Jackson, who is worth starting only because he's a freakish talent with legit week-winning fantasy upside. ... Vincent Brown will make another start in place of Malcom Floyd, who has bypassed Chaz Schilens as the most brittle wide receiver in football this season. Brown is gaining Rivers' trust, graduating from comeback-mode option in Week 9 to the Chargers' target leader in Week 10. He's a viable WR3.

While the Bears' pass defense has been a shutdown force, Chicago is permitting the third highest yards-per-carry average (5.11) in the league. With Rivers struggling, San Diego's best game-plan approach would be to attack the Bears with the run. Ryan Mathews' legs should be as fresh as they've been all season after receiving a year-low six carries in Week 10, followed by a ten-day layoff after a Thursday night game. The Chargers' offense has functioned at optimal levels only when Mathews has gotten the football 20-plus times per game. San Diego is 3-0 when Mathews gets at least 21 touches, compared to 1-4 when he doesn’t clear that benchmark. ... Mike Tolbert has been a third-down and goal-line back only with Mathews at 100%. Tolbert should receive 8-12 touches against the Bears, but will probably need a short touchdown plunge to be a worthwhile fantasy start. He's a low-end flex play. ... Since returning from his foot injury after the Chargers' Week 6 bye, Antonio Gates is averaging 5.5 receptions for nearly 70 yards per week with two touchdowns in four games. The Bears have allowed more fantasy points to tight ends than any defense in the league.

Over the Chargers' last five games, Michael Bush, Jackie Battle, Shonn Greene, James Starks, and Willis McGahee have lit them up for a combined for 530 yards on 98 carries (5.41 YPC). It's one of the most favorable matchups Matt Forte will get all season. ... Jay Cutler's impact has been minimized with Forte and the Bears' defense playing lights out football. Cutler hasn't thrown a touchdown pass in his last two games, and coach Lovie Smith would probably like to keep it that way. Cutler is only a two-QB league option. ... With passing attempts and overall efficiency way down in Chicago, Earl Bennett has been the Bears’ sole productive fantasy receiver. The slot man has caught all 11 of his targets for 176 yards and a touchdown over the past two weeks. Bennett will likely never evolve into a non-PPR difference-maker, but he's a respectable WR3 in PPR. ... Devin Hester, Johnny Knox, Roy Williams haven't been getting enough targets or receptions in the Bears' revised offense for any hint of fantasy confidence. None of them is even worth owning.

Score Prediction: Bears 21, Chargers 20

Sunday Night Football

Philadelphia @ NY Giants

Vince Young has not been a top-25 quarterback in fantasy points per game since his rookie year in 2006, and I'd be hard pressed to consider him better than a top-20 QB play in Week 11. While Young's supporting cast would appear to be the best he's ever played with, fantasy owners should note that Jeremy Maclin (shoulder) won't play, and DeSean Jackson has struggled to beat two-deep safety coverage all season. Not helping matters is the fact that the Giants generate more pressure than any team in football, leading the NFL in sacks despite nine combined missed games from Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora. I still believe Young is better than 7-10 current starting quarterbacks around the league, and that the Redskins should have signed him to start over Rex Grossman and John Beck. But I wouldn't use him in a fantasy league this week. ... My pick to lead Eagles in catches Sunday is Brent Celek. Young loves to check it down to tight ends, dating back to David Thomas at the University of Texas and Bo Scaife during their time in Nashville. Celek also leads Philly in targets over the past four games (34).

The Eagles' skill player likely to be least affected by the insertion of V.Y. is LeSean McCoy. As he did with Vick under center, McCoy will benefit from Young's run threat, which keeps linebackers on their heels and lanes open up the middle. While coach Andy Reid's offensive philosophy has long been pass heavy, it's also quite possible that he'll install a run-first approach for this particular game. It will be Young's first career start in a West Coast system, and there's little doubt that leaning heavily on McCoy would be Philadelphia's best option. ... Without a touchdown or a game over 46 yards since Week 5, Jackson needs to be considered strictly a WR3 until he picks it up. While it's difficult to put D-Jax's big-play ability on the bench in fantasy leagues, he just hasn't earned the benefit of the doubt with his recent performance. ... Riley Cooper, a 6-foot-3, 224-pound red-zone specialist, will get the start for Maclin at split end. Cooper has flashed field-stretching ability in exhibition games, but has just seven catches through two NFL seasons. ... Jason Avant will return to his slot receiver duties with Steve Smith seeing scant playing time against the G-Men. Cooper, despite limited pro experience, would be a higher-upside fantasy bet than both.

Practicing fully again after a lingering hamstring injury, Hakeem Nicks is off the injury report and has resumed full-time receiver duties. Gregg Rosenthal and Chris Wesseling rank Nicks as the fourth-best fantasy wide receiver for Week 11. ... Eli Manning lit up this same Eagles defense for 254 yards and four touchdowns in Week 3. Through the season’s initial two and a half months, Manning is the No. 6 fantasy quarterback and an every-week starter. ... Mario Manningham missed the aforementioned Eagles-Giants game with a concussion, leading to a monster (3-110-2) day for Victor Cruz. Mario has been near or at 100% over the last three weeks, finding pay dirt in three straight games. He will be a recommended WR3 going forward. ... Behind Nicks, here is the Giants' target distribution during that three-week span: Cruz 31, Manningham 26, Jake Ballard 18.

I've had a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that Cruz can be a consistent fantasy scorer as the No. 3 receiver behind two marquee talents. But his production speaks for itself, and the Giants' passing game is playing at an efficient enough level for Cruz to stay consistent. He plays in all passing formations and has at least 84 yards in six of his last seven games. The Eagles' Achilles' heel in pass defense has been the slot, where Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is out with a high ankle sprain. Cruz is the Giants' slot receiver. ... Ballard has cooled off since a hot run during Weeks 4-6, averaging four catches for 52 yards in his last three games. He's a fantasy backup with byes ending in Week 12. ... Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) will miss one more week, setting up Brandon Jacobs for another feature back workload. Jacobs has 42 touches over the last two weeks, and the Eagles' undersized front seven doesn't match up well with his bulldozing, downhill running style. The Giants should successfully keep the chains moving in this game, setting up Jacobs for red-zone carries. He'll be a good bet for at least 80 yards and a touchdown or two.

Score Prediction: Giants 28, Eagles 17

Monday Night Football

Kansas City @ New England

Coming off a 37-16 throttling of the division-rival Jets, New England is poised for a red-hot finish. Only one of their remaining seven opponents has a winning record -- the reeling Bills, in Week 17 -- and combined they are 21-43 (.328). At the forefront is sure to be Tom Brady, and last week's three-touchdown, 329-yard performance reconfirmed Tom Terrific as matchup-proof. Kansas City ranks dead last in sacks and has allowed the third most 20-plus yard pass plays in football. Brady is a lead-pipe lock for a big Monday night. ... After a two-game lull in Weeks 4-5, Rob Gronkowski is on an absolute tear. He's caught at least seven passes in four straight games, averaging 95.5 yards with three TDs during that span while once again pushing Jimmy Graham for top billing among fantasy tight ends. K.C. might have the league's weakest safety duo in Jon McGraw and Kendrick Lewis, so there should be enough openings for both of New England's tight ends to exploit. ... Here is Brady's target distribution since the Patriots' Week 7 bye: Gronk 35, Wes Welker 26, Deion Branch 21, Aaron Hernandez 14, Chad Ochocinco 8. ... The Pats have tried to give Ochocinco opportunities at Branch's expense, but Ocho has failed to capitalize. Branch is never a good bet for high receiving yardage totals, but has four touchdowns in his last six games.

Welker leads the NFL in receptions and receiving yards, and has at least six catches in all but one game this season. The Chiefs "play sides" in coverage, always leaving Brandon Flowers at left corner with Brandon Carr on the right and Javier Arenas inside. Welker will square off with Arenas for the majority of this game. ... The Patriots' backfield has been maddening from a playing time and touches standpoint since Kevin Faulk came off PUP in Week 8. Faulk, Danny Woodhead, and Stevan Ridley are barely worth owning in fantasy leagues, but this game has the potential to set up well for BenJarvus Green-Ellis. New England should whip the Tyler Palko-led Chiefs from start to finish, and Green-Ellis' role always increases in "keep-the-lead" mode. Shake off Law Firm's slow four-game stretch and use him as an RB2/flex against the Chiefs' No. 26 run defense.

Matt Cassel's hand surgery leaves the Chiefs with little hope on offense. Essentially a poor man's Bruce Gradkowski, Palko will be Kansas City's starting quarterback until Todd Haley inevitably benches him for rookie Ricky Stanzi. In 2007, Palko went undrafted out of Pittsburgh due to severe talent limitations, standing just 6-foot-1, running a 4.83 forty, and possessing an incredibly weak arm. He was a noodle-armed scrambler in college. Palko is also left-handed, meaning protection liability Barry Richardson will be on his blind side. Through nine games, Pro Football Focus has graded Richardson 70th out of 74 tackles in pass blocking. In five career preseasons, Palko has completed 133-of-243 passes (54.7%) for 1,423 yards (5.86 YPA), five touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He has also fumbled 10 times, losing four. Fire up the Patriots’ fantasy defense.

Kansas City's backfield also needs to be avoided. Jackie Battle receives substantial workloads only when the Chiefs are out in front, and his carry totals have dropped in three straight weeks. The Patriots figure to control this game, limiting Battle's playing time. ... It is perhaps conceivable that Palko could check down to Dexter McCluster relentlessly with a weak arm and what projects as awful pass protection. It's just not a bankable fantasy situation. ... Dwayne Bowe is still worth WR3 consideration because New England was playing the pass so poorly even before top CB Devin McCourty separated his right shoulder. ... Passing-game efficiency is a lock to dwindle in Kansas City, however, leaving very little appeal for secondary targets Steve Breaston and Jonathan Baldwin. Even in the most favorable matchups, Palko will have trouble clearing 200 passing yards.

Score Prediction: Patriots 45, Chiefs 3

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

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