Matchup: Eagles @ SeahawksThursday, December 01, 2011
Thursday Night Football
Philadelphia @ Seattle
Sidney Rice's (concussions) absence Thursday night and for the rest of the year is a big concern for Seattle's offense. In two games without Rice early this season, Tarvaris Jackson completed 41-of-66 passes (62.1%) for 356 yards (5.39 YPA), two touchdowns, and three turnovers. Fielding a checkdown-filled passing attack, the Seahawks generated a combined 17 points in those two affairs. In terms of vertical playmaking ability, the downgrade to Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu will be stark, particularly against an Eagles defense that is capable of taking away perimeter receivers by collapsing the pocket. Only six NFL teams have more sacks. Avoid Jackson in two-QB leagues if possible. Obomanu and BMW are very weak WR3 options. ... Seahawks rookie slot receiver Doug Baldwin is worth a look against Philly, if you're desperate. The Eagles struggle mightily to cover the slot (see Victor Cruz 6-128-1 and 3-110-2, Earl Bennett 5-95-1, and Wes Welker 8-115-2), and Baldwin will be the favorite to lead Seattle in receiving in Thursday's game.
Marshawn Lynch is a mediocre talent, but he's compensating with difference-making volume. He leads the NFL in rushing attempts and touches over the past four weeks, and during that span only Michael Bush has scored more fantasy points among running backs. You can make a case that Lynch is an RB1 until proven otherwise. Just keep in mind that Philadelphia's run defense has stiffened lately. Since Week 9, the Eagles have held opposing tailbacks to 176 yards on 70 carries (2.51 YPC), with BenJarvus Green-Ellis accounting for the only touchdowns against them, both from inside the five-yard line. The usage suggests Lynch is a must-start, but this isn't the mouth-watering matchup it would've been early in the season. Lynch is still averaging under four yards per carry on the year. ... If you're looking to handcuff Lynch for the stretch run, Leon Washington should be your pick over Justin Forsett. Washington has received more change-of-pace carries than Forsett in five consecutive weeks. The Seahawks face St. Louis (No. 32 run defense) in the first round of the fantasy playoffs, but get Chicago (No. 8) and San Francisco (No. 1) after that.
Whereas Lynch gets a harder matchup than trends for most of the year indicate, LeSean McCoy's isn't as difficult as it appears. Opposing tailbacks have touched up Seattle's normally run-tough defense for 338 yards on 73 attempts (4.63 YPC) over the past four games. McCoy's success against even the NFL's stoutest defenses was documented in last week's Matchups column. This is a matchup-proof back. ... Brent Celek is short on fantasy upside because he's short on real-life talent, but he's settled in as a consistent, low-end TE1 with six straight games of at least 50 yards and/or a touchdown. Seattle's defense has been one of the league's most generous to tight ends. Over the last month, the Seahawks have been lit up for 28 catches, 306 yards, and four scores by the position. It's an average line of 7-77-1, giving Celek a plus matchup. ... Vince Young peppered Jason Avant with garbage-time passes in Week 12. Trailing 24-16 at the half (31-16 by the early third quarter), V.Y. racked up 30 second-half throws against New England, intending 13 for his slot receiver. Avant was catch-less in the first two quarters, but finished with a season-best 8-110-1 stat line. The touchdown was Avant's first of the year and second in his last 27 games. I'm far more inclined to believe Avant's stats were a fluke than a sign of things to come.
Young has spread the ball around in his two starts. Here is his target distribution on the season: DeSean Jackson 18, Riley Cooper 17, Avant 16, Celek 12, McCoy 11, Steve Smith 1. ... D-Jax's performance-related benching in Week 12 played a big role in Avant's fluky big game because it elevated Avant into the second-half starting lineup. On Tuesday, coach Andy Reid announced that Jackson would resume starting against Seattle. If D-Jax can avoid another in-game benching, I like his chances of a rebound effort versus the Seahawks' big-bodied, stiff-hipped cornerback duo of Brandon Browner (6'4/221) and Richard Sherman (6'3/195). Jackson can run circles around them if his head is on straight. ... The matchup isn't nearly as favorable for Cooper, who goes 6-foot-3, 222 and will face off primarily with Browner. I suspect Cooper will be much less of a factor Thursday night than he has been in Young's previous two starts. ... The Seahawks rank 20th in pass defense and were smoked by Rex Grossman for 314 yards and two touchdowns in Week 12. V.Y. is an excellent two-QB league play and worth a look for standard-league owners treading water at quarterback. Just don't expect another comeback mode-influenced 400-yard effort.
Score Prediction: Eagles 20, Seahawks 13
Gregg Rosenthal takes a look at the key players to start or sit on Thursday night.