Evan Silva


print article archives RSS

Matchups: Lean on Lloyd

Friday, September 21, 2012

4:25PM ET Games

Pittsburgh @ Oakland

Denarius Moore returned from his two-month hamstring injury in Week 2 at Miami, starting at X receiver and tying Darrius Heyward-Bey for the team lead in targets (8). Pro Football Focus charted Moore with 40-of-65 snaps (61.5 percent). While a Week 3 date with Steelers RCB Ike Taylor isn't attractive for matchup purposes, Moore is on his way toward recapturing WR3 start-ability. Keep a close eye on Moore in Week 3, then consider starting him at Denver in Week 4. ... Heyward-Bey's snap percentage dropped from 91.9 in the opener to 73.8 with Moore's return against the Dolphins. Underwhelming so far in the Raiders' new offense, Heyward-Bey has yet to clear 45 yards in either of the first two games and will need to pick it up before he's given flex or WR3 consideration. ... Tight end Brandon Myers leads Oakland in receiving yards (151) through two weeks, which tells you all you need to know about the slow-starting Raiders passing game. Myers ran a 4.78 forty at 6-foot-3, 256 before Al Davis made him a sixth-round pick in the 2009 draft. Myers is getting a lot of playing time, but there are many TE2s with better fantasy upside. Look for Myers to spend this game as an in-line tight end trying to help block LaMarr Woodley.

Although his “fit” in Oakland’s new zone-blocking scheme has been widely questioned, Darren McFadden is the best trade target in fantasy football. When the ZBS system starts clicking, it can border on impossible to stop. Perhaps DMC will struggle again versus Pittsburgh's shutdown run defense, but his schedule looks like a cakewalk soon thereafter. With run-defense rankings in parentheses, here is McFadden's slate for the ensuing four games: @ Denver (7), @ Atlanta (25), vs. Jacksonville (31), @ Kansas City (27). Trade for McFadden while he's still affordable. ... Carson Palmer has just two touchdown passes through two games, the first on a garbage-time toss to rookie third receiver Rod Streater and the second on a screen pass, which No. 2 tailback Mike Goodson took 64 yards to the house. Palmer will get better as Moore gets healthier, but for now he should rank pretty low on QB2 lists.

No secondary has been struck as hard by early-season injuries as the Raiders'. LCB Ronald Bartell (broken shoulder) is out until midyear, while fellow starter RCB Shawntae Spencer (foot sprain) is sidelined indefinitely. With its run game nicked up and unreliable, Pittsburgh could shred Oakland with the pass if Todd Haley so chooses. The Raiders will trot out 31-year-old career slot corner Joselio Hanson and ex-Packers second-round bust Pat Lee (two career starts) as starters. Ben Roethlisberger couldn't ask for a more favorable matchup in sunny NorCal. ... Big Ben's target distribution on the young year: Antonio Brown 18, Emmanuel Sanders 12, Mike Wallace 11, Heath Miller 10, Jonathan Dwyer 6. ... Brown has over 70 yards in each of Pittsburgh's first two games and seems right on the brink of a breakout week. This matchup could push him over the top. Start 'em. ... Wallace has already found his groove in Haley's offense with touchdowns in Weeks 1 and 2. Though his targets seem low, Wallace has secured nine of the 11 balls thrown in his direction. The efficient start could lead to more looks from Roethlisberger and featured playcalls from Haley.

Miller is battling a rib injury that cost him most of this week's practice reps. While he figures to be active against the Raiders, Miller's low ceiling isn't worth the fantasy gamble. ... Sanders' high target count and 68-percent snap rate give him the look of a roster-worthy WR4/5. He could ascend to WR3 value with an injury to Wallace or Brown. Sanders is primarily a slot receiver, but can play outside if needed. ... Same as it ever was, Oakland's defense got pummeled by the run in last week's blowout loss to the Dolphins. Unfortunately, the Steelers lack a surefire starting fantasy back. Isaac Redman is averaging under 2.0 yards per carry, and Jonathan Dwyer is battling a mild case of turf toe while failing to exceed 13 touches in either of the first two games. Rashard Mendenhall (knee) won't play until Week 5. Dwyer continues to be the best fantasy bet in the Steelers' backfield, but that's not saying much. He's a complete roll of the dice as a flex option.

Score Prediction: Steelers 24, Raiders 10

Houston @ Denver

Running backs coach Chick Harris described the Texans' backfield to the Houston Chronicle this week: "The rotation might be four-two (Arian Foster to Ben Tate carries) or three-three," said Harris, explaining that touches will be distributed based mostly on game flow. "Once we see how each player is playing, who’s hot and who’s not, we’ll adjust accordingly." Foster is the premier running back play in the league every week, but Tate will keep fantasy owners guessing. He'll hurt you if the Texans don't grab a big early lead and lean on the running game. I wouldn't guess they'll grab a big early lead at Mile High this week. ... Andre Johnson's production dropped off in Week 2 because Houston took the air out of the football in a lopsided blowout of Jacksonville. The Texans are going to need Johnson this week in what could be a more passing-friendly shootout game. It's notable that the Broncos have yet to employ Champ Bailey in regular "shadow" coverage of opposing No. 1 receivers so far this year, instead "playing sides" and leaving Bailey at left cornerback. Perhaps they'll switch it up against the Texans, or maybe they won't. I'd plug Johnson into my fantasy lineup and hope Bailey spends another game at LCB.

Matt Schaub's target distribution through two games: Owen Daniels 17, Johnson 14, Foster 10, Tate 7, Kevin Walter and James Casey 6. ... The fact that Daniels continued to see heavy targets (9) -- rather than block -- in last week's easy win over the Jaguars is promising for his fantasy outlook moving forward. I still think Daniels is more high-end backup than surefire fantasy starter, but his sizable role is notable. Per Pro Football Focus, Daniels has played 125-of-158 snaps (79.1 percent) in the first two games, running 59 pass routes. For comparison's sake, trendy TE1/2s Kyle Rudolph and Dennis Pitta have each run 66 routes. So despite his offense's decidedly run-first design, Daniels isn't that far off guys generating considerably more fantasy buzz. ... The rest of the Texans' pass catchers are off the fantasy radar for the foreseeable future. Casey is an interesting, versatile talent but Houston makes no effort to get him the ball. ... While Schaub is plenty capable of going toe-to-toe with some of the league's finest passers, Houston's offensive philosophy prevents him from putting up big fantasy stats. Schaub has one touchdown pass or fewer in six of his past nine games. He is worth a look in two-quarterback leagues and that's it.

Beware Houston's pass defense. LE J.J. Watt is terrorizing passers, and RCB Johnathan Joseph is taking away their top wide receivers. Even LCB Kareem Jackson has looked good early, albeit against Ryan Tannehill and Blaine Gabbert. But the domination of Houston's No. 1 pass defense is nothing new; Wade Phillips' group held the league's No. 1 ranking a year ago as well. Peyton Manning has been a Jekyll & Hyde quarterback through two games, looking sharp as can be against the Steelers in Week 1 and like a dull-armed, declining 36-year-old for much of Week 2 against the Falcons. I would be surprised if Manning posted top-15 quarterback stats in Week 3. I couldn't bring myself to start him in such a brutal matchup. ... No wide receiver has more fantasy points than Demaryius Thomas through the season's first two weeks. Thomas runs most of his pass routes against opposing right corners, and will experience Joseph's suffocating coverage for the majority of Sunday's game. You can't bench Thomas, but expectations should be checked.

Look for Eric Decker to lead Denver in receiving this week. Jackson plays most of his snaps in "off" coverage, giving wideouts a lenient cushion. Decker can eat him up with underneath routes. Despite a relatively slow start, Decker needs to stay in fantasy lineups. He has the most favorable Week 3 matchup of any Broncos pass catcher. ... Jacob Tamme showed why he is not a legit TE1 with a 27-snap Week 2 game. The Broncos can turn to Brandon Stokley in the slot, and No. 2 tight end Joel Dreessen is a superior blocker. While Tamme can be an effective possession pass catcher, he is a replaceable player in this offense. I'd rather start Dennis Pitta, Kyle Rudolph, and maybe even Scott Chandler. ... Willis McGahee is averaging a rock-solid 4.66 yards per carry through two games, displaying power, balance, and speed to the corner rare for a running back who turns 31 in a month. Houston's defense is similarly prohibitive against rushing attacks, but McGahee can be relied upon for 16-plus touches and all goal-line work. He's an every-week RB2.

Score Prediction: Texans 23, Broncos 17

Sunday Night Football

New England @ Baltimore

On Wednesday's NFL Live, ESPN's Mark Schlereth did a nice job of explaining why Wes Welker's playing time was scaled back in the first two games. "With Josh McDaniels as their new offensive coordinator, they've turned to the running game. This has become a balanced offense. It's gonna take some time to find its rhythm. They've never run the ball like this. They've become a power-zone team featuring Stevan Ridley." It may be all water under the bridge moving forward. The Pats need Welker after losing Aaron Hernandez to a high ankle sprain, and Welker's snap rate unsurprisingly leaped following Hernandez's injury. Welker played 77 percent of the downs against Arizona, caught five balls for 95 yards, and only Brandon Lloyd was targeted more. Welker has at least six receptions in each of his last three meetings with Baltimore. His yardage and TDs are unlikely to approach last year's totals, but Welker will continue to be a major PPR asset. ... Lloyd is leading New England in targets and is on the verge of a breakout game. You can feel it coming. The Ravens religiously keep top CB Lardarius Webb at left cornerback and play him in the slot on passing downs, and Lloyd runs most of his routes down the opposite side of the field. Likely to square off early and often with more vulnerable RCB Cary Williams, Lloyd might be the best fantasy play in Sunday night's game.


Friday Update: Lloyd is listed as questionable on the injury report with a "thigh" ailment. Lloyd played 82-of-82 snaps in Week 2, and two folks regularly at Patriots headquarters both believe he'll be playing against Baltimore. I also asked a national reporter who used to cover the Patriots, and he too thinks Lloyd will play. Despite the Q tag, I believe Lloyd is worth waiting for in the Sunday night game because he's likely to play, has a great matchup, and is right on the cusp of a breakthrough week.

Through two games, at least, Baltimore's defense has not looked like the juggernaut it once was, without Terrell Suggs. And Suggs' loss has been felt both in run and pass defense. BenJarvus Green-Ellis and LeSean McCoy have both had rushing success against the Ravens, and they served up 371 passing yards to a previously struggling Michael Vick in Week 2. Ridley has at least 21 touches in each of the first two weeks and 247 yards from scrimmage. Always a good bet for goal-line scores, Ridley is an every-week starter until proven otherwise. ... Tom Brady has not gotten off to his usual red-hot start, and a dip in pass attempts is cause for early-season fantasy concern as New England tweaks its offensive philosophy. But there are holes in the Baltimore pass defense, which has struggled to get after quarterbacks through the first two weeks. ... Julian Edelman's snaps are up this year, but his production is underwhelming. He has six catches for 57 yards on eight targets. ... In addition to Welker, the Patriots figure to lean on Rob Gronkowski more as Hernandez rehabs his ankle. Gronkowski is up to 24 touchdowns in his last 24 games.

The Eagles' 9-Technique defense put the brakes on Baltimore's no-huddle last week, rendering Joe Flacco a checkdown specialist and forcing him into two turnovers. He completed 22 passes, but just four combined to first-team receivers Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin. Flacco can still register career-best passing stats this season -- I think he will -- but it's too early to anoint him a locked-in QB1. He's more of a low-end fantasy starter and top-end QB2. ... Dennis Pitta leads all tight ends in targets and catches through two games. Promoted into the starting lineup ahead of Ed Dickson, Pitta is playing 72 percent of the Ravens' offensive snaps and rarely blocking when he's on the field. He's an integral part of Baltimore's revised plan of attack. Start him against the Patriots. ... Flacco's target distribution through a couple of games: Pitta 24, Ray Rice 14, Boldin 9, Smith 8, Dickson 7, Jacoby Jones 5. ... New England's defense has not been the sieve it was last season against the pass, so aside from Pitta no Baltimore pass catchers have particularly attractive Week 3 fantasy matchups. I'd feel better about Smith if more balls were going his way.


Sunday Update: Torrey Smith's younger brother Tevin passed away late Saturday, and Smith left the Ravens' team hotel at 2AM Sunday following the tragedy. ESPN's Sal Paolantonio reported that Smith still wants to play on Sunday night, but there are no guarantees and the Ravens are leaving the final decision up to Torrey. I see this as a situation to avoid, particularly in the late start. If Smith does not play against the Patriots, Jacoby Jones would get the nod with Baltimore's starting lineup.

The Patriots held Rice in check the last two times these two teams met, but the Ravens aren't running the football out of the I-formation on every snap anymore. The no-huddle allows Rice more opportunities to get the ball in space, and he's capitalizing en route to an average of seven yards per touch. The No. 5 overall fantasy back through two games, Rice remains an elite RB1 play every single week. ... Even more so than Smith, Boldin needs volume to sustain start-able fantasy production because his big-play ability has all but evaporated. I thought Boldin looked great in the opener. But he caught two balls for seven scoreless yards in Week 2. Boldin can't be trusted as a WR3. He's a weak flex option, too. ... An update on Ravens WR Tandon Doss, who made the offseason all-hype team: Doss has one target and a six-yard catch on 18 snaps so far.

Score Prediction: Patriots 20, Ravens 17

Monday Night Football

Green Bay @ Seattle

Cedric Benson added a new dimension to Green Bay's offense in Week 2 against the Bears, rushing 20 times for a steady 81 yards and chipping in a 4/35 stat line in the pass game. Even at age 29 after over 1,500 career carries, Benson has maintained quick feet and plenty of power. Can he keep it up against the NFL's premier run defenses? Seattle has suffocated the Dallas and Arizona tailback corps to the tune of 72 yards on 30 rushing attempts, amounting to an average yards-per-carry of 2.40. The Packers have an ability to keep defenses in run-friendly nickel packages with four-wideout sets, but this is an awfully difficult matchup on paper. Benson is a flex option. ... Just 19th in fantasy QB scoring through two games, Aaron Rodgers is off to a painfully slow start, particularly for the first-round quarterback crowd. He's still a lock to get back on track. The Seahawks play strong pass defense, but often force offenses to pour on pass attempts due to their inability to run against Seattle's front. Rodgers probably isn't in for a monster Monday night fantasy game, but has elite talent complemented by sheer passing volume on his side. Start 'em.

We'll know more about Greg Jennings' (groin) status by Saturday after an apparent in-practice setback. You should already know the drill if Jennings is inactive. Via Pro Football Focus, here are the snap and target tallies from last Thursday's win over Chicago: Jordy Nelson 66/9, Jermichael Finley 55/6, James Jones 54/5, Randall Cobb 20/2. ... Cobb's two targets and low snap total were disappointing, although he missed some time with an early stinger and late-game hamstring injury. Keep Cobb reserved as a WR4 until we see sustained production. ... Jones laid an absolute egg against the Bears despite a healthy dose of involvement. He's a maddening fantasy player to try to predict. The Seahawks have outside cornerbacks capable of locking down perimeter receivers with physical press coverage, and Jones has never been great at getting off the jam. I'd write Jones off as a Week 3 fantasy option. ... I previously talked up Dez Bryant and Marques Colston as ideal buy-low receiver targets. Jordy Nelson has been more productive than both, but impatient fantasy owners get distressed when their guys aren't scoring touchdowns and Nelson has yet to find pay dirt. Trade for Nelson if you can and start him on Monday night. ... Finley already has three dropped passes and his agent publicly questioned Rodgers' leadership skills in the media this week. Finley is a talented headcase, apparently surrounded by more headcases. He's a wholly boom-or-bust TE1.

I like Seattle in the upset. In addition to the obvious 12th-man homefield advantage, the Seahawks are as capable as any team of exploiting a soft front seven with power-zone running. Marshawn Lynch dominated a strong Dallas front seven for 122 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries in Week 2, and has at least 85 rushing yards in ten of his past 11 games. Green Bay is serving up over five yards a carry on the ground. Run defense has been their team weakness through two weeks and extending back into the 2011 season. Look for some Beast Mode runs out of Lynch on Monday night. ... Away from Rodgers' side of the ball, the Packers' strength has been pass defense. They have used CB Tramon Williams to shadow opposing No. 1 wide receivers, and he executed with a two-catch, 24-yard shutdown of Brandon Marshall last Thursday. The Packers can also get after the passer. Expect a big night for Seattle's run game, and a conservative day through the air.

Score Prediction: Seahawks 24, Packers 21

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

Highest Searched Players over the last 7 days

Video Center


    Back's NBA 6-Pack: Friday

    Pepsi's Frozen Five: Thursday

    Back's NBA 6-Pack: Wednesday

    Back's NBA 6-Pack: Monday
    Draft: Norris on WR breakdown

    Draft: Norris on WR breakdown
    Norris: Senior Bowl

    Norris: Senior Bowl's Top 20
    Norris: Who

    Norris: Who's No. 1?
    Short: Expectations for Hanley

    Short: Expectations for Hanley