Evan Silva


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Matchups: Lean on Lloyd

Friday, September 21, 2012

NY Jets @ Miami

Mark Sanchez has played five good quarters and three bad ones through two weeks of action. His kryptonite has and will continue to be defensive pressure. After an impressive opening 15 minutes against the Steelers in Week 2, Sanchez's performance went in the tank as OLB LaMarr Woodley almost single-handedly controlled the game for the final 45. While the Dolphins don't typically present an imposing pass-defense matchup, LE Cameron Wake and red-hot DT Randy Starks are capable of similarly putting the brakes on New York's passing attack. ... The Jets are a philosophically run-first offense and don't match up well with the Dolphins' run-dominant defense. What Miami lacks in cover corners it has in spades inside the trenches. In their first two games, the Fins have allowed just 101 rushing yards on 43 carries (2.35 YPC) to opposing running backs, and Arian Foster, Ben Tate, and Darren McFadden are no slouches. The Jets will have to have to rely on Sanchez's arm to move the ball on Sunday. I don't think it's going to be pretty.

Stephen Hill is long on talent, but consistency will be elusive. After a 5/89/2 Opening Day line, Hill crashed back to Earth with a catchless Week 2 game on two targets. He's a fantasy WR5. ... Santonio Holmes caught two balls for 25 yards and a TD on the Jets' first drive at Pittsburgh. He proceeded to run lazy routes and get shut down by Ike Taylor the rest of the way, securing just one of his final seven targets for a gain of three yards. Holmes has a favorable Week 3 matchup on paper, but he's far from a trustworthy fantasy option. ... Bilal Powell saw increased playing time following Shonn Greene's Week 2 head injury. Powell is worth stashing in 12-team leagues as an RB5, but no Jets running back is a viable play in this impossible matchup. Powell is ahead of Joe McKnight on the depth chart and has been for a while. ... Dustin Keller is tentatively expected back from his hamstring strain this week, but he's had enough setbacks that he's not remotely on the fantasy radar for starting lineup purposes. ... Slot receiver Jeremy Kerley has been the Jets' most consistent and reliable wideout through two games. Kerley's playing time is less reliable because he rides the bench in two-wide packages and plays in a running offense that goes heavy on them.


Friday Update: Keller was listed as questionable on the final injury report, but did not practice and the beat writers in New York now expect him to miss this game.

Vegas put a 41.5-point over-under on Jets-Dolphins. It's the lowest of any Week 3 game and I think it might be generous. While it was nice to see Ryan Tannehill turn in a largely productive, efficient Week 2 game against the Raiders, he's now going from facing perhaps the league's worst pass defense to its best. I wouldn't expect much passing success from the Dolphins as a whole this week. ... Brian Hartline rejoined the starting lineup against Oakland to post career highs in yards (111) and receptions (9). This is great news for Tannehill, but Hartline is a WR4/5 versus Darrelle Revis & Co. ... Davone Bess is the other Dolphins starting receiver, with Legedu Naanee plummeting down the depth chart. Bess carries value in PPR leagues only, and even then it's not much. ... Reggie Bush is the lone start-able Dolphins skill-position player in Week 3. The Jets' defense lacks speed up front to prevent Bush from getting to the perimeter, and he's likely to have as much success as any Miami receiver on pass plays. Start Bush with confidence as an RB2 approaching legit RB1 status.

Although his production came late in a blowout against a weak Raiders defense, Dolphins rookie Lamar Miller flashed his big-time potential off the bench in Week 2 with 65 yards and a touchdown on ten runs. Miller has blinding speed and acceleration, and I would not be surprised if he passed sluggish holdover Daniel Thomas on the depth chart before long. Grab Miller in 14-team leagues. Miller is also worth stashing at the end of 12-team league rosters in "hopes" Bush goes down.

Score Prediction: Dolphins 13, Jets 10

Kansas City @ New Orleans

Entering the season, many observers anticipated Kansas City's defense being among the NFL's strongest. The opposite has been true. On Monday, Romeo Crennel was forced to announce that he'll stay on as head coach and defensive coordinator, as opposed to relieving himself of the latter duties following a brutal start. Crennel's defense has surrendered 67 points through two games, including five touchdown passes. They were lit up by the previously reeling Bills in Week 2. If the Chiefs' defense plays Sunday like it has the past two, Drew Brees and Marques Colston will have no trouble at all busting their slumps. ... It's safe to say Brees is "pressing" a bit, considering the facts that he's forcing throws into coverage and has four picks in the first two weeks. It's also safe to say he will get better. In his last eight home games, Brees has completed 216-of-315 passes (68.6 percent) for 2,789 yards (8.85 YPC), and a 29:6 TD-to-INT ratio. He's going to be just fine. ... Colston has been inches from three touchdowns in the first two weeks. While his speed-sapping foot injury is a mild concern, Colston's game has never been founded on creating large amounts of separation. Look for Colston to get off the schneid this week against Kansas City. If Dez Bryant is the best buy-low receiver in fantasy football, Colston is a very close second.

Darren Sproles doesn't have a single rushing attempt on the year, yet still ranks top-20 amongst fantasy backs and has been an RB1 in PPR leagues. Start him every week regardless of format. ... Mark Ingram needs the Saints to either be playing in a close game or with a lead in order to produce starting-caliber fantasy stats in a given week. He did that against Carolina in Week 2, rushing for 53 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Not much has changed for Ingram from 2011. He's a weekly flex option. ... Pierre Thomas totaled 143 yards last Sunday, but his week-to-week outlook remains the same. He's second in line for rushing attempts in New Orleans' backfield, and second in line for receptions as well. Though Thomas is arguably a better player, he's a weaker fantasy flex play than Ingram because the latter is a superior bet for red-zone scores. ... Brees' target distribution through two games: Jimmy Graham 23, Sproles 22, Colston and Lance Moore 15, Thomas 7, Devery Henderson 2, Ingram 1. ... While Moore is always a threat for big games, his role in the Saints' offense makes him inherently inconsistent as the fourth option in the passing attack. Moore continues to play more snaps than last season, though, and should finish with a better year-ending stat line. His big weeks will just be impossible to predict.

Saints-Chiefs has Week 3's highest over-under, in part because New Orleans is lethal offensively at home and more so because neither of these defenses has shown an ability to stop anyone. The Saints have given up more yards than any team in the league. They're tied for the NFL lead in points allowed with -- you guessed it -- the Chiefs. It is a constant theme in the Matchups columns that we recommend starting players involved in likely shootouts. This is a likely shootout, so trot out your studs and use the high-scoring projection as a tiebreaker for lineup decisions. ... Matt Cassel is no one's idea of a QB1, but he should be started pretty confidently in two-quarterback leagues. Though Kansas City's offensive philosophy is run-heavy, Cassel has been racking up pass attempts due to large deficits. Look for him to keep it up against a New Orleans ballclub that can't get pressure on the quarterback. ... Dexter McCluster's role dwindled in Week 2 after his buzz-generating opener, but he's worth a look in PPR leagues squaring off with overwhelmed Saints rookie slot cornerback Corey White. White was regularly toasted in the first two weeks.

Dwayne Bowe is a top-ten receiver play in this matchup. He will be targeted heavily. ... I reviewed the Chiefs-Bills tape and Jamaal Charles looked fast, elusive, and healthy before an apparent second-quarter knee bruise cost him second-half playing time. Practicing fully, I would start him with confidence in this game. Charles is a much better buy-low trade target than Chris Johnson. He’s willing to fight for yards and his offensive line can run block. ... Peyton Hillis is clearly an inferior runner to Charles. While Hillis plays more in the passing game, he has not exhibited big-play ability in the first two games and generally performed in a sluggish manner. All that said, Hillis remains on the flex radar this week due to the opponent. New Orleans has allowed league-highs in rushing yards (372) and touchdowns (5) through two weeks. ... Jon Baldwin's snaps crept up from 22 in the opener to 39 in Week 2, although it was attributable to come-from-behind mode. Baldwin is rotating with Steve Breaston opposite Bowe.

Score Prediction: Saints 33, Chiefs 24

Cincinnati @ Washington

The Redskins have the NFL's fourth-ranked rushing offense through two weeks, and it's difficult to imagine the Bengals stopping them. Once a feared defense, the Bengals are getting gashed both up front and in the back end. Mike Zimmer's unit was bullied around the field by the lowly Browns in Week 2. It's a personnel issue. Alfred Morris is unspeakably slow by NFL tailback standards, but he's a good bet for another 80-100 yard day. Keep trotting out Morris as a flex until Shanahan & Son bench him. (It will happen eventually; just hopefully not this week.) ... Both of Robert Griffin III's Week 2 rushing touchdowns appeared to be drawn up and designed deep in the red zone. Shanahan & Son have kept fantasy owners up at night with their running back deployment, but the aggressive usage of Griffin should please the masses. After losing OLB Brian Orakpo (pectoral) and DE Adam Carriker (quadriceps) for the season, the Redskins may also be headed for a high volume of shootout-type games. Washington had been counting on its front seven to mask the secondary deficiencies. They're going to struggle to put heat on opposing quarterbacks now. That may cost the Redskins in the won-loss column, but it's going to help pad Griffin's fantasy stats.

Fred Davis leads Washington in targets (9) through two games, but passes aren't being thrown his way downfield. He's doing a lot of blocking and running routes around the line of scrimmage. I wouldn't bet on Davis busting his slump this week. ... Keep Evan Royster rostered in 12-team leagues. While it isn't saying much, Royster has better burst than Morris. He was also in the game quite a bit late against the Rams. Roy Helu appears entrenched as a situational passing-down back only, with Royster second in line for early-down work. ... Josh Morgan made Week 2's most boneheaded play, chucking the ball at a St. Louis defender and drawing a late fourth-quarter unsportsmanlike penalty with Washington driving and down by three. Morgan cost his team a chance to tie the game, and I wouldn't be surprised if the flag costs him playing time to Leonard Hankerson going forward. Hankerson secured two of his three Week 2 targets for 68 yards and a touchdown. ... Santana Moss can be dropped in fantasy leagues as a slot receiver who plays only in the nickel offense. Moss has 61 yards on eight targets so far. ... It doesn't look like X receiver Pierre Garcon (foot) will play against Cincinnati, but I wouldn't look for WR3 fill-in value here. Aldrick Robinson and Hankerson rotated evenly with Garcon out in Week 2. Neither is a trustworthy option. I'd take Hankerson over Robinson if forced to choose between those two.


Friday Update: Garcon was listed as doubtful, which is a downgrade from last week's questionable tag. He won't play against the Bengals. The rest of the Redskins' receivers remain rolls of the dice, but I'd look at Hankerson if I really wanted to start one of them in this mouth-watering matchup. OC Kyle Shanahan had high praise for Hankerson during the practice week, and the ball goes to the X receiver in Washington's scheme. Hankerson offers quite a bit of upside for a guy you can probably scoop up off the waiver wire on Friday or Saturday.

Andy Dalton's Week 2 box score looks good, but the game tape doesn't. Dalton has Andrew Hawkins' open-field elusiveness and Brandon Tate's straight-line speed to thank for two of his three touchdown passes, and Dalton flat-out missed an alarmingly high number of open throws against a bad Cleveland pass defense playing without its top corner. The Skins are also porous against the pass, but not to the point that Dalton is worth consideration as a standard-league starter. He's just a two-QB league option. ... I do think Washington's secondary and pass rush woes elevate A.J. Green from mid-range WR1 to elite receiver start. The Redskins entered the season relying on Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan's outside pass rush to mask deficiencies at safety and cornerback. The Washington back end played atrociously last week against the Rams, with Danny Amendola and Brandon Gibson running around wide open throughout the secondary as Sam Bradford had ample time to throw. Green has been solid in the first two games, but he could be headed for an explosion week. Jim Haslett's defense has little or no prayer of stopping him.

Upstart slot receiver Andrew Hawkins is a dicey fantasy bet week in and week out because he only plays on passing downs. Through two games, Hawkins' snap rate stands at a paltry 48.9 percent. Hawkins has made up for it so far with playmaking ability and Week 1 comeback mode against the Ravens, but he will struggle to keep it up without a major bump in playing time. He's high-risk. ... Tate and Armon Binns will be incredibly inconsistent because they rotate at "X" receiver. Binns starts and plays more snaps, but it's a dilemma to avoid. ... Jermaine Gresham has gone 22 straight games without hitting 75 yards. He will never be a viable fantasy starter in Jay Gruden's brand of offense. ... The talent differential between Trent Richardson and BenJarvus Green-Ellis was enormous in favor of the rookie during last week's Browns-Bengals game. Green-Ellis has no big-play ability, plays sparingly in the passing game, and is about to start losing touches to now-healthy Bernard Scott. Strongly consider trading Green-Ellis while you can still get something worthwhile. He'll be a drain on your week when he doesn't score at the goal line.

Score Prediction: Redskins 28, Bengals 17

St. Louis @ Chicago

The Bears dispute the Chicago Sun-Times' description of Matt Forte's injury as a high ankle sprain, but Forte won't be playing this week and perhaps not for a while. While Michael Bush lacks Forte's elusiveness and long speed, he can compensate with three-down tools and sheer volume. Bears OC Mike Tice has installed an old-school power-running offense this season, and Bush is now tasked with carrying the mail. It's a recipe for huge workloads. Through two weeks, St. Louis' defense has permitted 259 yards on 47 carries. The 5.51 yards-per-rush average is the highest in the NFL, and the Rams have also allowed four rushing touchdowns in two games. Trot out Bush as a borderline RB1. ... Bears rookie Alshon Jeffery has a boatload of ability, but is a sub-60 percent receiver at this point, rotating with Devin Hester (37 percent) and Earl Bennett (45 percent) across from Brandon Marshall (96 percent). Consistency will be elusive. Unsurprisingly, Jeffery followed up his 3/80/1 Opening Day stat line with one catch for seven yards last Thursday night against the Packers. Jeffery won't be a reliable fantasy option until his field time increases.

Jay Cutler is much better than his Week 2 showing at Green Bay might suggest, but the Bears' offensive line problems remain alive and well and that was evident in the 23-10 defeat. They're a definite concern for Cutler's fantasy outlook. On paper, a matchup "versus St. Louis" typically appears enticing, but the Rams' greatest team strength is pass defense with Chris Long and Robert Quinn bending the edges and Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan patrolling the back end. Cutler and his pass protection need to string together a couple of promising efforts before we entertain him as a legitimate QB1. ... There are two surefire fantasy starters on the Bears' roster. They are Bush and Brandon Marshall. Though Marshall was shut down by Tramon Williams last week, fantasy leaguers need to shake off the disappointing outing and keep running him out there as a WR1/2. ... Cutler's target distribution through two games: Marshall 20, Forte 11, Bennett 10, Kellen Davis and Jeffery 7, Hester 3, Bush 0. ... Keep in mind that those old Forte targets will now be directed Bush's way. ... Davis caught a touchdown pass in Week 2, but he isn't even a TE2.

I don't blame anyone for being down on Steven Jackson as a fantasy back with no touchdowns, 14.2 standard-league points, and an alleged groin injury through two weeks. But let's be clear about something: S-Jax is still a ferocious, explosive runner capable of punishing a defense with a little bit of help from the guys around him. Even with Danny Amendola racking up catches left and right, Jackson was the best skill-position player on the field in the first half of last week's Rams-Redskins game. He's got plenty left in the tank. ... It should be obvious but I've been asked about it: Daryl Richardson is not taking Jackson's job. While the seventh-round pick has impressed with speed to burn and silky change-of-direction skills, Richardson is a boom-or-bust finesse runner. He is and will remain a pace-change back until he shows an ability to churn his legs through contact. Richardson is easy to tackle when the blocking doesn't get him out in space. ... Drop Isaiah Pead if you haven't already. Whereas Richardson played 43 snaps in Week 2, Pead was in there for two offensive plays. Richardson ran a full circle around his more heralded competition.


Friday Update: Jackson missed practice all week and is listed as questionable on the injury report. Coach Jeff Fisher says his playing status will be decided just before Sunday's game, presumably based on a pre-game warmup. Check back Sunday morning for the Rams' inactives, but this is a fantasy situation I'd try to avoid. The matchup is difficult, the health status of Jackson is almost a complete unknown, and the seventh-round rookie Richardson would be a shot in the dark as a fantasy option in the event Jackson were ruled out.

Amendola was a machine against the Redskins. He amazingly caught a pass on each of St. Louis' first seven successful offensive plays. The Redskins had no answer as Amendola racked up 12 first-half receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. St. Louis spent much of the second half trying to run out the clock. Amendola won't be open that often on a regular basis, but he's clearly the featured player in the Rams' passing game. Consider Amendola a WR3 option in standard leagues and every-week PPR starter. ... Amendola is the possession target while Brandon Gibson is the guy the Rams want to get the ball to downfield. He has a touchdown in each of the first two games. Just be careful. St. Louis opened the year against two of the NFL's worst pass defenses (Detroit, Washington), and Chicago's is much stingier. I might grab Gibson as a WR5, but he's not a starter against the Bears. ... Sam Bradford looked pretty good against the Redskins on frequent rollouts and boots as St. Louis schemed to get him outside the pocket. Like Josh Freeman in Tampa Bay, Bradford's fantasy ceiling is curtailed by a philosophically run-first offense. But he's someone to keep an eye on as a potential QB2 pickup. Through two weeks, Bradford has a 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio and 71.7 completion rate. His 8.5 YPA would be a career high by over two full yards.

Score Prediction: Bears 23, Rams 16

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