Evan Silva


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Matchups: Stick with Smith

Saturday, December 24, 2011

1:00PM ET Games

NY Giants @ NY Jets

Victor Cruz has produced at an elite enough level that it's at least worth pondering whether the Jets might give him the Darrelle Revis treatment in Saturday’s game. Precedent says probably not. All season long, defenses have assigned top corners to Hakeem Nicks' side, along with rolled coverage. Cruz also plays in the slot in three-receiver sets, and Revis rarely covers opposing inside receivers. No Giants wideout moves around as much or is as tough to follow defensively as Victor Cruz. For most of this game, my expectation is that Revis will cover Nicks while Antonio Cromartie plays strictly the outside corner spot opposite them, and Cruz deals with either slot corner Kyle Wilson or dime back Donald Strickland in obvious passing sets. From a matchup standpoint, Cruz will be the favorite to lead the Giants in receiving on Saturday.

Game flow got the best of Shonn Greene in Week 15 as the Eagles jumped out to a 28-0 second-quarter lead. Forced to play from behind, the Jets used the run game as a change of pace only during the final two quarters, while also losing the time-of-possession battle. It wasn't a good recipe for Greene's fantasy stats. He should rebound against the Giants. With a defense designed based on up-field pass rush as opposed to gap control, the G-Men rank 22nd in the NFL against the run and surrender 4.53 yards per rushing attempt. Barring in-game injury, it's almost inevitable that Greene will post solid, RB2-caliber numbers in this matchup. The volume is sure to be there, Greene has played at a high level since midseason, and the opponent struggles to stop the run.

Score Prediction: Jets 21, Giants 20

Cleveland @ Baltimore

The Ravens maintain a slim lead atop the AFC North, but they'll have to win out for things to stay that way. Top division foe Pittsburgh faces 2-12 St. Louis and this same 4-10 Browns squad in its final two games. Baltimore travels to Cincinnati in Week 17, so realistically the Steelers should be considered the slight favorites to win the division. Regardless, a blueprint for stomping Cleveland was established by Baltimore in Week 13. Particularly after losing Anquan Boldin to a multi-week knee injury, there is little reason to believe the Ravens would veer from the distinctly smash-mouth strategy. The Ravens rocked the Browns with a 55:24 run-to-pass ratio, as Ray Rice and Ricky Williams rushed for a season-high 280 combined yards. Some regression off those rushing numbers is inevitable in this game, but the bottom line is that Baltimore's plan of attack is likely to be run-heavy and of the low-percentage variety in the rare instances Joe Flacco drops back to pass. The Ravens can win this game in the trenches. Torrey Smith and Lee Evans are unappealing WR3s. (Smith actually matched up with Joe Haden for most of the aforementioned Week 13 game.) Ed Dickson is off the radar. Flacco is a two-QB league option. Rice is a top-three fantasy running back play.

The Ravens were beaten so soundly in Ray Lewis' Week 15 return that it's fair to wonder if they might be better off starting Dannell Ellerbe at middle linebacker instead. The Chargers gashed Baltimore with the run, piling up 145 rushing yards and three rushing TDs. And make no mistake: Ryan Mathews was the key to San Diego's win. I don't typically condone starting running backs against Baltimore, but Peyton Hillis may have the Ravens right where he wants them. Don't forget that his 2010 breakout game (22-144-1, 7-36) came against Lewis' defense in Week 3 last year, and Seneca Wallace just so happened to be quarterbacking the Browns at the time. Wallace simply creates more ball movement than Colt McCoy, making things happen with his legs and presenting no downgrade in terms of passing skills. Montario Hardesty did not receive a Week 15 touch and is no threat to Hillis' workload after falling behind Chris Ogbonnaya on the depth chart. Three weeks ago, I would've said there's no chance starting Hillis against Baltimore would be a good idea in fantasy title games. It's still not the most desirable move, but I’d feel better about it now.

Score Prediction: Ravens 23, Browns 17

Miami @ New England

With six straight victories, the red-hot Patriots have catapulted themselves into the driver's seat for the AFC's No. 1 seed. Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Houston are all one game back, however, so New England must win out to lock it up. They won't take Miami lightly. The Pats attacked the Fins with a pass-first approach in their Week 1 tilt, avoiding Miami's stout front seven and targeting a secondary vulnerable in coverage besides LCB Vontae Davis. New England's final pass-to-run ratio was 48:22, as Tom Brady threw for 517 yards and four touchdowns. Bill Belichick's game plans aren't typically predictable, but this is still the best formula to defeat the Dolphins. Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, and Aaron Hernandez should be locked into fantasy lineups. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the rest of New England's running game should be on the bench.

The Pats have an edge in this game because they pose so many matchup problems offensively, but the Dolphins can stay competitive because New England's defense simply can't stop anyone. The secondary is as bad as advertised, and losing sack leader Andre Carter for the season will make life even tougher on an already overmatched back end. Brandon Marshall has at least 97 yards in each of his last two meetings with the Patriots. Reggie Bush is running like he was shot out of a cannon, ranking fifth among tailbacks in fantasy scoring over the past five weeks. Healthy again, Matt Moore is a solid two-quarterback league play. His receivers will be open on Saturday.

Score Prediction: Patriots 30, Dolphins 20

Jacksonville @ Tennessee

The Titans' playoff hopes took a monster hit with last week's loss to the Colts, but they're still hanging by a thread, needing independent wins and Jets and Bengals losses to keep playing into January. Unfortunately for Tennessee fans, coach Mike Munchak is insistent upon starting Matt Hasselbeck at quarterback. Hasselbeck has thrown one touchdown pass over his last five games and is averaging a pathetic 5.27 yards per attempt. We're left only to speculate that he'll be on a short leash, but the in-game installation of rookie Jake Locker isn't a bankable fantasy situation. Even against a bad Jacksonville team, Hasselbeck is playing so poorly that Titans skill players may struggle for production because ball movement threatens to be scarce. Owners of a scuffling, banged-up Chris Johnson (ankle) can consider benching him with Munchak hinting at an increased workload for Jamie Harper. Tennessee's receivers and tight ends have been incredibly inconsistent fantasy commodities. Barring an unexpected change in Munchak's quarterback plans before game day, it's fair to feel uncomfortable starting Titans during fantasy championship week.

Maurice Jones-Drew tweaked his ankle in last Thursday night's loss to Atlanta, but returned to the game and practiced this week. He will start against the Titans. Tennessee's run defense has been sieve-like of late, as Donald Brown's fantasy owners can attest. Over the last four weeks, the Titans have been roughed up for 452 yards on 71 carries (6.37 YPC) by a combination of Brown, Delone Carter, Chris Ivory, Darren Sproles, C.J. Spiller, and LeGarrette Blount. MJD will have fresh legs nine days removed from his last game and is a top-five running back play in Week 16.

Score Prediction: Jaguars 20, Titans 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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