Evan Silva


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Matchups: Lean on Lloyd

Friday, September 21, 2012

1:00PM ET Games

Tampa Bay @ Dallas

If Week 2 was any indication, the Bucs' defense is at least almost as bad as we thought. The Giants put an offensive licking on Tampa Bay. Eli Manning set a career high -- by 90 -- with 510 yards, and Hakeem Nicks (199), Victor Cruz (179), Martellus Bennett (72), and Andre Brown (90, all-purpose) all did the same. The most overwhelmed defender on the Bucs' side was CB Aqib Talib, who was exposed for the vast majority of Nicks' yardage while also being flagged for two big pass interference calls. Dez Bryant is currently the best buy-low receiver target in fantasy football, and he may be impossible to acquire after this date with Talib. Start 'em. ... Miles Austin is the No. 8 overall fantasy wideout through two weeks of action. Despite little "buzz," he's scored in each of Dallas' first two games and leads all Cowboys in targets. Here is Tony Romo's target distribution on the young season: Austin 14, Jason Witten 13, Bryant and Kevin Ogletree 12, Felix Jones 7, DeMarco Murray 6. ... Ogletree isn't "the next Laurent Robinson," after all, and was targeted just once in Week 2 after his 11-target opener. He may have some more big games over the course of the season, but Ogletree will struggle for consistency as Romo's fourth passing option at best.

The Bucs served up six catches for 56 yards to Greg Olsen in Week 1 and a 5/72/1 stat line to Martellus Bennett in the second game. Both also had wide-open drops. It's been easy to get open over the middle against Tampa Bay's defense, so this is a favorable matchup for Witten. I still wouldn't be thrilled with him as a season-long fantasy starter. ... Although Jones has one more target than Murray so far, Felix is playing extremely poorly. He's no threat whatsoever to Murray's workloads. ... Expect a bounce-back game from Murray in Week 3, after Seattle's stout front seven put a stranglehold on Dallas' running attack last Sunday. The Cowboys should control this game, allowing Murray to pile up rushing attempts. Falling behind early to the Seahawks cost Murray in Week 2, as he touched the ball just four times after the break. ... The Giants' passing-game destruction of Tampa Bay bodes positively for Romo's Week 3 prospects. Dallas pass catchers should be able to win at all areas of the field in Sunday's game, just as Eli's did. It may be a bit of a scoring bonanza for the Cowboys.

Doug Martin's 3.66 YPC average doesn't jump off the page, but he's maintained solid RB2 stats with massive workloads. He ranks fifth in the NFL in touches and has at least 20 carries in both of the Bucs' first two games. Still missing Pro Bowl NT Jay Ratliff (ankle), Dallas' run defense has been relatively leaky thus far. Paced by Marshawn Lynch and fading Ahmad Bradshaw, opposing starting tailbacks combined to tag the Cowboys for 200 yards and two touchdowns on 43 carries (4.65 YPC) in Weeks 1-2. Expect another busy day at the office for Martin. He continues to be the featured player in Tampa Bay's offense. ... Feel free to throw LeGarrette Blount into the dumpster fire. He's been demoted to No. 3 on the Bucs' depth chart -- behind Martin and D.J. Ware -- and is being carried on the 53-man roster only as an insurance policy. ... Tight end Dallas Clark secured three of his four Week 2 catches in comeback mode and needs the Buccaneers to be in constant passing situations to get on the football field, let alone produce. There are a host of better TE2s.

Josh Freeman isn't yet to the point where he's a strong QB2, but I thought he showed signs of progress after watching the Week 2 tape. He made several big-time vertical throws, hooking up with Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Freeman was a checkdown machine in August and the season opener. Dallas' pass defense has been nearly impenetrable, but keep tabs on Freeman to see if he makes more strides. ... Vincent Jackson separated with relative ease against New York's secondary, burning Corey Webster among others and benefiting from a successful play-action game. Just beware of this matchup. Through two weeks, Dallas has held opposing quarterbacks to 36-of-52 passing for just 364 yards (7.0 YPA) and two touchdowns. Working in V-Jax's favor will be the expected absence of FS Gerald Sensabaugh (calf). SS Barry Church (quadriceps) is also banged up. Under normal circumstances, the Cowboys would likely use Sensabaugh to play "over the top" of Jackson while jamming him with Morris Claiborne or Brandon Carr at the line. ... Although Williams scored in Weeks 1 and 2, he's seen just eight targets. The Bucs' run-heavy offense won't be able to support more than one fantasy-viable pass catcher over the long haul. Plenty of fantasy week-killing games are in Williams’ future.

Score Prediction: Cowboys 27, Bucs 13

Jacksonville @ Indianapolis

Week 3 will be a telling test of Blaine Gabbert's mettle. After a seemingly promising preseason and opener against the Vikings, Gabbert took a major step back as his offensive line crumbled in last Sunday's blowout loss to Houston. LE J.J. Watt ransacked the right side of Jacksonville's front five as Gabbert managed a pathetic 53 yards on 19 pass attempts before exiting with fourth-quarter toe and hamstring injuries. After absorbing three sacks and seven quarterback hits, will Gabbert return to the crawl space from which he played throughout his rookie season? I wouldn't recommend starting any Jags pass catchers as we find out. ... Coach Mike Mularkey called out Justin Blackmon this week for tentative, indecisive route running, which is another way of saying Blackmon needs to start getting open. I still think Blackmon will end up leading the Jaguars in receiving, but he obviously needs to be plastered to fantasy benches for the foreseeable future.

As the Jags attempt to stay alive in games amid pass protection problems and Gabbert's struggles, they figure to turn the offense over to Maurice Jones-Drew. MJD looked sharp on 15 touches in Week 2, but falling behind big to the Texans cost him opportunities as the game got out of hand. The Jaguars should be more competitive this week. Rashad Jennings may return from his knee injury, but he is no longer a significant threat to Jones-Drew's workload. Expect 20-25 carries out of MJD and 3-5 receptions. While the Colts' defense has changed under Chuck Pagano and Greg Manusky, Jones-Drew has had a ton of historical success versus Indy. In 12 career meetings with the Colts, he's averaged 5.27 yards per carry on 230 rushing attempts and scored a dozen TDs.


Friday Update: Jennings is listed as doubtful on the injury report and will not play against the Colts. Jones-Drew will handle a full workload.

Andrew Luck ranks 20th in quarterback points through two games, settling in as a two-QB league option only. Whereas Jacksonville has been gashed by the run thus far, coordinator Mel Tucker's defense continues to stifle opposing passing games with a Cover-2 shell that prevents big pass plays. The Jaguars haven't surrendered a single passing touchdown yet, and get top corner Derek Cox back from his hamstring injury this week. Luck is just a QB2. ... It might be time to start taking Donnie Avery seriously as a fantasy contributor, though. Benefiting from more attention paid to Reggie Wayne by the Vikings' Week 2 defense, Avery racked up team highs in targets (10), receptions (9), and yards (111) a week after securing Luck's first career touchdown pass. Avery's strengths (deep speed) and weaknesses (physicality, durability) are such that he may always struggle with week-to-week consistency, but he'll remain a threat for big games as long as Austin Collie (concussions) continues to miss them. Although Collie practiced extensively this week, I wouldn’t expect to feel confident about his availability until just before Sunday’s game. His immediate on-field role remains unclear.


Friday Update: Collie is listed as probable on the injury report after a full practice week. He still must receive doctors' approval to play, however, and Collie will visit a head specialist on Saturday. If Collie is active on Sunday morning, use this as a "wait-and-see" week for the Colts' receiver spot across from Wayne.

After scoring a Week 1 touchdown and averaging 5.3 yards per carry against the Bears, the real Donald Brown showed up last Sunday. Consistently stuffed around the line of scrimmage by the Vikings, Brown's YPC dropped to 2.81 and he was nonexistent in the passing game for a second straight week. The matchup is right for Brown against Jacksonville, but the talent just isn't there. He comes off the field on all passing downs and requires offensive line domination for productive rushing efforts. Brown is and will continue to be a weak flex option. ... Luck's target distribution through two games: Reggie Wayne 25, Avery 18, Coby Fleener 14, Kris Adams (who?) 7, Mewelde Moore 3, Brown 2, Dwayne Allen 1. ... Collie's return could sting Wayne a bit, but there's no telling when that will happen and to what extent. Keep Wayne rolling in Week 3. He's an every-week WR2. ... Fleener received ten of his targets in Week 1, when the Colts played most of the game in comeback mode. Fleener's playing time was similar in both games, but he'll need to do more in order to earn mid-range TE2 consideration. Fleener isn't close to a legit fantasy starter.

Score Prediction: Colts 20, Jaguars 17

Buffalo @ Cleveland

I used Wednesday to re-watch Bills-Chiefs. C.J. Spiller's inside running still leaves something to be desired, but coach Chan Gailey did a terrific job of scheming him into space on draws, zone-read type handoffs, sweeps, and pass plays. Spiller is a homerun threat every time he gets to the perimeter, and will offer legit RB1 value until Fred Jackson (knee) returns, if not longer. Already lacking front-seven personnel to field a stingy run defense, the Browns are now trying to nurse back starting DT Billy Winn from a concussion. Start Spiller and make the rest of your lineup decisions around him. ... Tight end Scott Chandler is a post-up slot receiver in Buffalo's five-wide offense, but Ryan Fitzpatrick looks for him regularly deep in the red zone and he has a couple of touchdowns to show for it already. Chandler may always struggle for high reception and yardage totals, but he's never a poor bet to find pay dirt. I really like the fact that Chandler plays over 90 percent of the snaps, now, too. He didn't come close to that rate last year. More field time will increase Chandler's fantasy consistency. He's the primary beneficiary of David Nelson's ACL tear.

Fitzpatrick's target leaders through two weeks: Stevie Johnson 15, Chandler 11, Donald Jones 10, Spiller 6. ... Jones recorded a 5/41/1 line in the season opener, doing his damage in garbage time of a blowout loss to the Jets. He regressed to one catch for a loss of one on three targets in Week 2. While a fluky "breakout" game may come at some point, Jones is barely roster-worthy in 14-team leagues. ... Johnson remains the featured member of Buffalo's passing game and ranks 15th in fantasy receiver scoring after two games. Start Johnson every week, and particularly against the Joe Haden-less Browns. Cleveland's post-Haden pass defense busted Andy Dalton's ten-game slump last week. ... Fitzpatrick's fantasy stats don't look bad with five touchdown passes in the first two contests. His on-field performance has been far less remarkable, playing a major role in Buffalo's Week 1 48-28 defeat and managing the game in Week 2 with 19 pass attempts. Fitzpatrick is worth a two-quarterback league play against Cleveland, but he's not a top-12 option.

Trent Richardson's removal for Chris Ogbonnaya on pass downs may lead to some slow weeks when the Browns fall way behind, but the rookie looked every bit an RB1 in last Sunday's one-score loss to Cincinnati. Richardson ran angry, often requiring three or four Bengals to bring him down. He made unblocked defenders miss, accelerated through alleys, and got stronger as the game progressed. One of Richardson's most impressive traits is vision. Whereas BenJarvus Green-Ellis generally runs straight at a defender he'll spot 6-8 yards downfield, Richardson runs away from the enemy by ripping off a sharp lateral cut well before the two make open-field contact. He then blows by the off-balance defender with an outside burst of speed. The skill levels of Law Firm and Richardson are not close, but what really sets them apart is their running mindset. Richardson possesses dynamic talent and plays like it. Green-Ellis lacks dynamic talent and plays like it. From this point forward, start Richardson in fantasy every single week.

Cincinnati's defense lacks outside-edge rushers and can't cover anybody in the back end, so with hindsight on our side, it's probably not shocking that Brandon Weeden had a good game against the Bengals. After watching his horrendous preseason and opener, though, we need more data for confidence in the Browns' passing game. Weeden enjoyed a squeaky-clean pocket against Cincinnati, and we already knew he could spin the football beautifully in what essentially amounts to a 7-on-7 pickup game. The Bengals gave Weeden forever to throw. Let's see him do it against a Bills defense that sacked Matt Cassel five times with five additional hits in Week 2. ... Weeden's target distribution through two games: Mohamed Massaquoi 15, Greg Little 11, Richardson 8, Josh Gordon 7, Ogbonnaya 6, Alex Smith 5, Ben Watson 3. ... Massaquoi had 90 yards in Week 2 -- a high in his last 37 games. While Buffalo's pass defense is unimposing, Massaquoi has been consistently unreliable and inefficient throughout his career. Little is the only Browns pass catcher worth Week 3 fantasy consideration, and even he would be a low-end WR3.

Score Prediction: Bills 24, Browns 14

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