Evan Silva


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Matchups: Run, DMC

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Tennessee @ Buffalo

I re-watched the Titans' Week 6 upset of Pittsburgh late last Sunday and came away genuinely impressed by Chris Johnson. While he could have made a few better reads to gain more yards, there's little doubt that CJ?K ran harder than he has all season and was slippery in the open field. Johnson also put more effort into his pass blocking, which I believe speaks to his improved focus. The jury remains out on Johnson's season-long outlook, but he's now compiled 256 yards on his last 59 carries (4.34 YPC) and gone over 100 total yards in two of his last three games. The skepticism on Johnson might be stronger if he wasn't facing the NFL's last-ranked run defense in Week 7. Trot him out there; he won't get a more favorable matchup all year. ... Matt Hasselbeck will pick up one more start as the Titans nurse back Jake Locker from a twice-dislocated left (non-throwing) shoulder. Hasselbeck has very little left in terms of intermediate and downfield passing ability, but keep in mind this terrible, underachieving Bills defense has already been gashed by Mark Sanchez and Alex Smith. They allowed the Jets and Niners' below-average starters to combine for a 6:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Hasselbeck is worth a long look in two-quarterback leagues.

The Titans have made a concerted effort to feature Kenny Britt in their pass game whenever he's been healthy this season. That hasn't occurred often, of course, but he's all the way back from his ankle and knee woes after a ten-day layoff following last Thursday's game. While Britt caught four balls for 62 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh, he was clearly shaking off rust. Britt left yards on the field with two dropped passes and poorly-run routes. Britt is an absolute beast talent, though, and he won't struggle to get free against and physically outlast up-and-down Bills rookie RCB Stephon Gilmore. Buffalo ranks 20th versus the pass and has permitted a 13:6 TD-to-INT ratio. For Britt, this has the potential to be his 2012 breakout game. ... Titans targets in the two games this season when Britt has played 40 or more snaps: Britt 22, Kendall Wright 19, Nate Washington 13, Jared Cook 8, CJ?K and Damian Williams 6. ... The top two options in the pass game are clearly Britt and Wright. Washington is capable of big plays, but the Titans don't call pass plays for him nearly to the extent they do for the other two. Whereas I think Britt is a legit WR1 at Buffalo, Wright is a strong WR3 and Washington is worth a look for the desperate. ... Cook is another guy with playmaking ability. Although he's not an every-week starter, Cook is a worthwhile bye-week fill-in against a Buffalo defense allowing the fifth most yards to tight ends.

The Titans pulled out the aforementioned Week 6 win, but big leaks remained in the Tennessee defense. They tackled poorly, especially on Isaac Redman's embarrassing 105 yards worth of receiving plays, and got cooked deep on Mike Wallace's 82-yard touchdown bomb. There is really nothing the Titans do well on defense. Fire up your Bills. ... The C.J. Spiller-Fred Jackson time split can be frustrating, but they're both RB2s with upside versus Tennessee's No. 24 run defense. Jackson is Buffalo's primary inside runner and red-zone back. Averaging a scintillating 7.6 yards per carry and over eight yards per offensive touch, Spiller has quietly emerged as the single most dangerous in-space runner in football. Just as they did last week against the Cardinals, both Bills backs can have potent Week 7 fantasy games. ... After a two-game lull, Stevie Johnson turned in a quality, six-catch, 82-yard effort at Arizona and will maintain long-range consistency because he's force fed the football in Chan Gailey's passing offense. Johnson is an every-week WR2/3.

Tennessee has given up more production to tight ends than any defense in the league, although that fact doesn't necessarily alter Scott Chandler's Week 7 outlook. He's probably not going to suddenly rip off a seven-catch, 100-yard receiving day. Chandler needs touchdowns to be fantasy relevant. He hurts you when he doesn't score one. ... Donald Jones and T.J. Graham are role-player wideouts falling in line behind Johnson on the Buffalo target totem pole. They are not roster worthy in 12-team leagues. ... Ryan Fitzpatrick got off to his annual hot start. And it appears his annual fade has gotten underway earlier this year. Fitzpatrick is 34-of-58 (58.6 percent) for 279 yards (4.81 YPA) and no touchdowns over his last two games. The defenses he faced (Arizona, San Francisco) are much tougher than Tennessee's, but Fitzpatrick's accuracy, arm strength, and pass protection are all big obstacles standing in his way of sustained QB1 numbers. He's a QB2.

Score Prediction: Bills 24, Titans 20

Cleveland @ Indianapolis

Last week's blowout loss to the Jets may have provided a glimpse into Andrew Luck's year-long fantasy outlook. Take away Reggie Wayne, and you can shut down the Colts' offense. Wayne finished Week 6 with 87 yards on five grabs, but was essentially eliminated by Antonio Cromartie until complete garbage time. 57 of Wayne's yards were gained after the 7:30 mark in the fourth quarter, with Indy trailing by 19-plus points. T.Y. Hilton, Donnie Avery, Coby Fleener, and Dwayne Allen are all fine complementary-type players, but none of them has stepped up as anything more. Start Luck against Cleveland's 30th-ranked pass defense if you're strapped on a bye, but don't go trading your QB1 yet thinking Luck can be the guy. ... Wayne can expect to be followed around the formation by CB Joe Haden in this game. Haden played better against the Bengals than A.J. Green's mammoth 7-135-2 line suggests, but his coverage isn't quite shutdown-caliber enough to make Wayne bench-able. Wayne is the No. 7 overall fantasy receiver and remains tied with Victor Cruz for the NFL's targets lead. ... Allen, Fleener, and Hilton are interesting keeper prospects. They're unappealing in standard re-draft leagues, even during desperate bye weeks.

Possessing speed to burn but incredibly inefficient, Avery has turned his last 29 targets into a pathetic nine catches for 110 yards. He hasn't hit pay dirt since Week 1. Avery continually gets favorable matchups across from Wayne -- and the ball continually goes his way -- but he's been a total fantasy tease. Play Avery at your own risk. ... Vick Ballard is a thoroughly mediocre talent. He won't hit big plays, and he's pulled on all passing downs for Mewelde Moore. But I don't think you can hold Ballard's Week 6 stat line (8-25, 2-17) against him because the Colts got down 14-3 early in the second quarter, bailed on the running game, and the deficit grew from there. Bench Ballard if you think that will happen again this week. If you think the Colts will stay competitive and/or win, Ballard is a viable flex. The Browns rank 26th against the run, surrender 4.64 yards per carry, and will be without SLB Scott Fujita (neck) in Week 7. ... The term "plodder" is probably overused on Rotoworld's website. I try to avoid it in this space. But I feel the need to use it here to describe Delone Carter, because Carter defines plodder. Carter received four carries off the bench in last week's game against the Jets, managing gains of one, five, three, and four yards. The Colts had one solitary red-zone carry in Week 6, and Ballard took it for a gain of one.

Browns rookie wide receiver Josh Gordon is 6'4/220, and he can really run. He's got great hands and a bright future. But his past two weeks' production is unsustainable from the standpoint that all three of his touchdowns came on busted coverage. In Week 5, it was Gordon taking a slot route vertical against Giants LB Chase Blackburn for 62-yard score, and finding pay dirt again from 20 yards out when LCB Corey Webster thought he had safety help. In Week 6, Gordon again ran vertical from the slot and got passed off by two Bengals defenders in a zone look. Brandon Weeden had all day to throw, and no one covered Gordon as he secured the 71-yard touchdown bomb. With Mohamed Massaquoi and Travis Benjamin back from injuries this week, will Gordon lose snaps? You could do worse for a bye-week WR3 against an Indy pass defense that isn't playing remotely as well as its No. 3 yardage-allowed ranking suggests, but Gordon remains a major roll of the dice. I wish the Browns were making more of an effort to get him the ball at the short and intermediate levels. Gordon was only targeted four times in Week 6. I think he's just as likely to catch two balls for 18 yards Sunday as he is to score again on a blown defensive play. ... Weeden continues to get better every week. He has a great arm and is a strong two-QB league option versus an Indianapolis defense that has surrendered a 10:2 TD-to-INT ratio against and the fourth highest quarterback rating (104.0) through the season's initial six weeks.

Another positive for Weeden is the absence of OLB Robert Mathis (knee), the Colts' best pass rusher. Browns LT Joe Thomas is capable of neutralizing RE Dwight Freeney on the other side. Weeden is deadly accurate with a clean pocket, and he should have one Sunday. ... Greg Little might be a more deserving candidate for a snaps reduction than Gordon. Although not quite on Avery's inefficiency level, Little has secured just nine of his last 21 targets for 112 yards, dropping five catchable passes in the process. ... In addition to being Indy's top sack threat, Mathis was the Colts' best second-level edge setter versus the run. They'll also be without five-technique run-stopping LE Cory Redding (knee), and ILB Pat Angerer (foot) is questionable. Trent Richardson's owners should breathe a big sigh of relief that he emerged healthy from last week's rib scare. This Colts team just served up Shonn Greene's best game in four years. Richardson should dominate carries over pedestrian backup Montario Hardesty and is a locked-in RB1 in Week 7. Look for Hardesty in a change-of-pace back role, perhaps handling 5-8 touches. ... Jordan Cameron has an awful lot of talent, and his playing time appears to be on the come up. Per Pro Football Focus, Cameron played a career-high 31 snaps in Week 6 and caught two balls for 38 yards. Cameron needs to clearly bypass Ben Watson before becoming a legit fantasy option.

Score Prediction: Browns 23, Colts 21

4:25PM ET Games

NY Jets @ New England

Shonn Greene deserves credit for running hard and shaking loose from defenders with surprising moves in New York's Week 6 drubbing of Indianapolis. He'll just be hard pressed to build on the performance with three straight upcoming matchups against top-six run defenses. The Patriots have allowed only two rushing touchdowns through six games and are yielding a paltry 3.37 YPC average. They stymied red-hot Marshawn Lynch (15-41-0) last week. The Jets face Miami (No. 5 run defense) and Seattle (No. 2) in their following two games. Greene's Week 6 effort created an ultimate sell-high opportunity ahead of Sunday's game. ... In Mark Sanchez's last three regular season tilts with the Pats, he's been limited to 53-of-98 passing (54.1 percent) for 636 yards (6.49 YPA), three touchdowns, and five picks. The Jets are 0-3. New England's No. 28 pass defense ranking doesn't look so imposing, but Sanchez has struggled against the Patriots when they've been much worse. He's not on the standard-league radar and would be a poor two-QB league bet.

Sanchez's target distribution since Santonio Holmes was lost for the season in Week 4: Jeremy Kerley 15, Chaz Schilens 9, Stephen Hill and Jason Hill 3, Dustin Keller 1. ... Despite the rookie Hill's Week 6 return from a hamstring injury, Schilens stayed in the starting lineup ahead of him and led Jets receivers in snaps. Kerley was second, but paced the way in targets and receiving stats for a second straight week. Hill won't be worth using in fantasy leagues until his role grows. He was a 29-percent player against the Colts. ... Kerley is the Jets' best wide receiver and worth a look as a WR3 in a game where New York could fall behind big, forcing Sanchez into pass-heavy comeback mode. ... Keller was targeted just the one time against Indianapolis, but returned to his normal on-field role after a two-month hamstring strain. Bill Belichick is aware of Keller's seam-stretching speed, and has rendered him a non-factor in New England's last four meetings with the Jets. Keller's final stat lines in those matchups: 2-37, 1-7, 3-15, 3-27. No touchdowns.

Aaron Hernandez was limited to 38-of-87 snaps in his Week 6 return from a four-game high ankle sprain, but he showed little or no ill effects on six receptions, including a red-zone touchdown on a fade over Seahawks S Jeron Johnson. Hernandez could have had another second-quarter score had Tom Brady not overthrown him wide open down the right seam. The Patriots entered the season with designs on making Hernandez their featured pass-game player, and he's a top-three TE1 this week. ... Rob Gronkowski had historically struggled for receiving production against Rex Ryan's defense until last November's meeting. Gronkowski busted his Jets slump with an 8-113-2 line in New England's 37-16 rout of New York. While Gronk hasn't found pay dirt in back-to-back weeks, he still ranks No. 4 among all fantasy tight ends and is an elite every-week starter. ... Wes Welker tired out Seattle slot CB Marcus Trufant in last Sunday's loss, piling up 10 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown. Welker played 77-of-87 downs and has locked himself in as an integral part of playcaller Josh McDaniels' offense, even with Hernandez back and Julian Edelman (hand) soon to follow. In Week 7, Welker will deal with practice squad-type CB Ellis Lankster and overwhelmed Jets former first-round pick Kyle Wilson on passing downs. Welker has had Wilson's number for two years and is a must-start in this game.

Stevan Ridley found little running room against Seattle's No. 2-ranked run defense, but ran with physicality and burst when he did. He's the same guy. Owners need to forget the slow box-score effort and start Ridley as an RB1 versus the Jets' 28th-ranked group. Ryan has tinkered with dropping 7-8 defenders into coverage in recent Patriots games, silver-plattering huge rushing stats for the likes of BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Ridley is way better than Law Firm and has a legit shot at a monster day. ... Brady's numbers in his last three regular season meetings with the Jets: 71-of-101 (70.3 percent) for 976 yards (9.66 YPA), and an 8:1 TD-to-INT ratio. The Patriots have won all three. Keep in mind Darrelle Revis played in all of them, and he's out now. Get set for a big effort from Tom Terrific. ... New England is destined for passing success on Sunday. While his matchup is difficult against red-hot Jets CB Antonio Cromartie, Brandon Lloyd got open against Seattle's similarly stout corners in Week 6 enough to gain 80 yards on six receptions. Expectations for Lloyd should be tempered, but I'm starting him as a WR2 in a bye-week crunch. ... Brandon Bolden (knee) didn't practice this week and won't play against the Jets. Ridley will dominate early-down rushing attempts and be a top-five running back start. ... Patriots passing-down back Danny Woodhead is averaging just over eight touches for 43 total yards per game. I suppose he's a viable desperation flex option in Week 7, but I personally try to aim higher. Woodhead won't help you unless he scores a fluke touchdown.

Score Prediction: Patriots 34, Jets 13

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