Evan Silva


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Matchups: Dez'll Do It

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Oakland @ Baltimore

I think we're going to see the Raiders air it out in Baltimore. I mean lots of passing. Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson are Oakland's only viable ball carriers, and they're both out with high ankle sprains. The best back left is versatile FB Marcel Reece, who can block, catch and make plays afterwards, and perhaps run the ball on draws and short-yardage plays. No coaching staff -- dating even back to Reece's college days at University of Washington -- has ever deemed him a sustainable run-play back. Reece had five rushing attempts in his college career. He had an NFL career-high 30 with Oakland in 2010, exceeding three carries in just one game that year. I'd be excited about Reece in PPR this week because I think his floor is five receptions and he could flirt with double digits. Pass plays generate more yards than runs anyway, and I don't think Reece will struggle to dominate snaps over Taiwan Jones. ... Although Jones is expected to take most of the tailback snaps on obvious running downs -- at least early in the game -- I think he'll prove a fantasy tease. Both head coach Dennis Allen and OC Greg Knapp indicated this week that they have little or no confidence in Jones in terms of ball security, pass protection, or simply being an assignment-sound player. I suppose you could do worse than a guy with great long speed in a flex spot, but I wouldn't be surprised if Jones finished Sunday with single-digit carries. He's a boom-or-bust play.

There are no guarantees for a pass-heavy Raiders game plan, of course, but Carson Palmer should be on QB1 streamers' radar regardless. A recommended start in this space last week, Palmer delivered season bests in yards (414) and touchdowns (4) and continues to spray the ball with ample arm strength and accuracy. Although Baltimore's pass defense has played better than its No. 22 ranking suggests, it struggles to defend perimeter receivers, and that will be Oakland's offensive strength on Sunday. ... Shake off Denarius Moore's relatively slow Week 9 box score (4-66) and start him against the Ravens. Without DMC, there's every reason to believe Moore will be the Raiders' featured Week 10 skill player. ... Darrius Heyward-Bey is a top-25 fantasy receiver the past three weeks, but still a low-end WR3 option at Baltimore. He's averaging just 4.5 targets a game in the last month, and 5.3 during the three-week "hot" streak. ... Palmer's target distribution since Oakland's Week 5 bye: Moore 34, Brandon Myers 33, Rod Streater 22, McFadden 20, Heyward-Bey 18, Reece 16, Derek Hagan 9. ... I wrote last week that Myers was the Raiders' "No. 3 pass option." I wrote that in err. Myers is ahead of Heyward-Bey, and a quality TE1 play in Week 10 against a Baltimore defense that has allowed the sixth most yards in the league to tight ends.

Baltimore returned from its Week 8 bye playing run-dominated offense. They executed a 37:24 run-to-pass ratio in a 25-15 win at Cleveland, and early indications are that the Ravens scrapped their first-half pass-happy approach during the open date, hitching their wagon to Ray Rice. Fresh off Doug Martin's mammoth Week 9 game, the Raiders dipped from 11th to 21st in run defense ranking, and there is every reason to believe Rice will gash this group. ... Bernard Pierce ran seven times for 26 yards and a touchdown against the Browns, operating as a change-of-pace back. Pierce is a nice handcuff, but he's not a fantasy option even in the finest of matchups. ... Matchups don't matter for Dennis Pitta, either. Averaging 24 yards over his past five games without a touchdown, Pitta can hit waiver wires in re-draft leagues. Because the Ravens appear to be installing a run-first approach, Pitta will play fewer snaps than in-line TE Ed Dickson moving forward. ... 43rd in fantasy receiver scoring to this point, Anquan Boldin has settled in as a WR4. His 1,020-yard pace is already slowing down, and he's reached pay dirt just once on the year.

If the offensive philosophy in Baltimore continues to be as run oriented as it was at Cleveland, Joe Flacco will essentially have no prayer of QB1 value. The Raiders get back top CB Ronald Bartell from I.R./designated for return this week, and Flacco might not hit 25 pass attempts if Rice even has half the game Martin did against the Raiders. ... Beyond Rice, one Baltimore skill-position player capable of salvaging some value in spite of the decreased passing volume is Torrey Smith. A run-driven offense can make the play-action game lethal, and Smith is the Ravens' best deep threat. While Smith seems destined for stretch-run inconsistency, he's got some big games forthcoming. This could easily be one. Oakland has been susceptible to deep bombs all year long.

Score Prediction: Ravens 23, Raiders 20

Tennessee @ Miami

Tennessee's run defense has been below average this season, and it's hit rock bottom the past three weeks. Shredded by the Colts, Bears, and Bills for a combined 502 yards and two TDs on 94 rushing attempts (5.34 YPC), the Titans present an inviting matchup for Miami's Reggie Bush-Daniel Thomas timeshare. Bush couldn't get much going between the tackles in last week's loss to Indianapolis, but proved his health by making four Colts miss on his 18-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. While the rotation keeps Bush from RB1 or even high-end RB2 value, he's in the top-15 fantasy back range in Week 10 because of the opponent. ... Thomas is a replacement-level talent, but he ran with purpose on eight touches at Indy, getting downhill en route to 62 total yards. He's on the flex-play radar. ... Thomas has played more snaps than Bush in each of the Dolphins' last two games, suggesting the time split isn't going away. 4-4 Miami fancies itself as a playoff contender -- because it is -- and the coaches want Bush upright for the stretch run. ... Tennessee has given up a boatload of fantasy points to tight ends, but it doesn't matter much for Anthony Fasano when he doesn't get the ball. Fasano has started all eight games this year, and hasn't cleared 50 receiving yards. He has two catches on six targets over the past two weeks.

I've seen some QB1-streamer hype on Ryan Tannehill this week. It's not the worst idea, but I'd prefer someone like Philip Rivers or Eli Manning, and definitely Josh Freeman or Tony Romo. At home facing a team with a quarterback returning from a five-week injury, I think the Dolphins will control this game with their rushing attack and defense. Tannehill has a bright future, but he's not on the re-draft radar yet. Lacking playmaking receivers, Tannehill has four touchdowns in his last six games. ... Miami should be able to move the ball through the air when it needs to, though. The Titans rank 27th against the pass and have allowed the most passing touchdowns in the NFL. I watched Dolphins-Colts on Tuesday and came away encouraged by Brian Hartline's usage. The Fins made an increased effort to get him the ball on screens, comebacks, and sideline shots, and Hartline came away with an 8/107 line on a team-high 12 targets. Hartline looks like a strong WR3 in Week 10. ... Davone Bess doesn't score touchdowns, so he's off the radar in standard fantasy leagues. He also requires pretty heavy volume to prove a worthwhile PPR start. On pace for 966 scoreless yards at the halfway point, Bess is best left on fantasy benches.

Chris Johnson's 80-yard touchdown run came in garbage time at Chicago, but I found it promising that his head was still in a blowout loss enough to make a big play like that. You've heard a lot of excuses for Johnson's 2011 and early-season 2012 struggles -- the offensive line, playcalling, a holdout, eroding ability -- but I'm convinced that it's always been about effort. Johnson has run with consistent effort in four consecutive games, over that span racking up 526 yards and three touchdowns on 74 carries (7.11 YPC). He's totaled 100-plus yards in each of his last three games against top-ten run defenses. I never thought I would've said this early in the year, but Johnson is a must-start against the Dolphins. He's hitting homeruns again, and you can't bench the homerun potential. ... Jared Cook reached a new low against the Bears, dropping a pass, getting thrown for a loss of three on one of his two receptions, and generating six yards on five targets. Cook isn't playing well or enough to be more than a desperation fantasy option. ... Locker has appeared in parts of four games this season, playing extensively in three. His target distribution on the year: Kendall Wright 24, Cook 15, Damian Williams 14, Kenny Britt and Nate Washington 13, Johnson 10.

Locker has completed 67-of-104 passes (64.4 percent) for 781 yards (7.51 YPA), and a 4:2 TD-to-INT ratio in his three games of extensive playing time. He's rushed eight times for 67 yards. That's good production, but Locker has also been incredibly streaky and is a rhythm player, so how he'll fare after five missed weeks is thoroughly unpredictable. I don't think it should surprise anyone if he's bad against a good Dolphins defense. Locker still offers high-upside QB2 appeal for the stretch run with a big arm, explosive supporting cast, and plus-yardage scrambling ability. ... While nice to see in Wright's case, bear in mind Locker's aforementioned target stats are not necessarily predictive. Britt missed a game and got injured in another. He had 11 targets in the third. Williams and Cook's roles have reduced since Locker last played. Wright still looks like the safest fantasy play in Tennessee's pass-catching corps against the Fins. Miami can really bring pressure, but ultimately ranks 30th in pass defense and got lit up by Andrew Luck last week. ... Britt still stands to be the primary beneficiary of noodle-armed Matt Hasselbeck's demotion for power-armed Locker. The Titans may go conservative in Locker's first game back, but they have run much more of a vertical-oriented attack in his games under center. They dinked and dunked with Hasselbeck. Britt offers more upside than any Tennessee receiver in Week 10 and beyond.

Score Prediction: Dolphins 24, Titans 17

Atlanta @ New Orleans

Falcons-Saints unsurprisingly has the highest over-under of Week 10 at 53.5 points. Fire up all of your guys in this one. ... After an uncharacteristically inaccurate Week 8 game in Denver, Drew Brees returned to the bright lights of the Superdome on Monday Night Football, and re-found his stroke against the Eagles. Brees was lights out for all four quarters, completing a season-best 77.8 percent of his attempts and racking up big throw after big throw. In a near-certain shootout, Brees figures to have his way with Atlanta's No. 14 pass defense in Week 10. ... At full strength again, Jimmy Graham got open with ease against overmatched Eagles S David Sims and looks like a strong candidate to lead all tight ends in fantasy scoring the rest of the way. Graham has a touchdown in each of his last three Falcons meetings, and will be harder to contain with WLB Sean Weatherspoon (ankle) missing another game. Weatherspoon is a key component of Atlanta's coverage schemes at Mike linebacker in the nickel. ... Marques Colston posted stat lines of 7-81-1 and 8-113 in the Saints' two 2011 meetings with the Falcons. Because of where he lines up on the field, Colston projects to square off with Atlanta's two weaker corners in this game: RCB Dunta Robinson and slot CB Robert McClain. The No. 9 overall fantasy wideout, Colston is a locked-and-loaded WR1.

With Graham back healthy, Lance Moore has managed just eight targets the past two weeks, securing five for 86 scoreless yards. Moore played a season-low 24-of-57 snaps (42.1 percent) against Philadelphia and is not a recommended Week 10 fantasy play. ... Devery Henderson will spend most of this game in Falcons top CB Asante Samuel's coverage. Avoid Henderson. ... In the Week 9 absence of Darren Sproles (hand), the Saints employed a three-back timeshare. Pierre Thomas (21 snaps), Mark Ingram (18), and Chris Ivory (13) rotated throughout the game. Thomas' snap rate was head-scratchingly his lowest since Week 1. I wonder if it would have been different had the Eagles posed any real competitive threat, forcing the Saints into more passing situations. The Falcons will definitely do that. … Sproles did not practice this week and was ruled out on Friday. … In a possible pass-happy shootout game, Thomas is still going to be fantasy owners’ best bet in the New Orleans backfield. Ivory and Ingram are low-end flex options. Thomas is a high-upside flex; I think he'll be much more productive in this game than he was against the Eagles.

The No. 5 fantasy quarterback through nine weeks, Matt Ryan figures to pour yards and points on New Orleans' No. 29 pass defense. The Saints' seven sacks of Michael Vick in Week 9 were a mirage; this is not a team that rushes the passer well. From a clean pocket, Ryan is capable of shredding any defense. ... Saints DC Steve Spagnuolo has mixed and matched Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson between left and right corner recently, based on game-by-game matchups. Struggling Robinson was assigned to DeSean Jackson last Monday night. Jackson promptly went off for 100 yards and a touchdown. Greer has easily been New Orleans' top cover man and held Jeremy Maclin to 28 scoreless yards on two catches. While Julio Jones and Roddy White are both legit WR1s in this likely high-scoring affair, I think the best bet is that Greer will cover Jones on the majority of snaps, and the Saints will put Robinson on White. If I were a bettor, my money would be on White leading the Falcons in Week 10 receiving stats. ... Tony Gonzalez has come back to Earth after a white-hot start to the season. It was inevitable. Gonzo is 36 years old and the Falcons' offensive playcalling is geared toward getting Jones and White the football. You still start Gonzalez against the Saints. He's the No. 4 overall tight end scorer, and there should be enough points recorded by Atlanta to support three productive fantasy efforts in the pass-catching corps.

It seems sensible to look for sleepers in a game like this. Just don't waste your time with Falcons slot receiver Harry Douglas. Douglas, coming off a catch-less effort against Dallas, has seen over five targets in just 1-of-7 games. He's been targeted three times or fewer on four occasions. The Falcons don't try to get Douglas the ball, and you shouldn't bet that they suddenly will. ... A pass-happy affair could cut down on Michael Turner's field time and carries against the Saints, but he's a good bet for a goal-line score regardless. It certainly can't hurt Turner's chances that New Orleans ranks dead last against the run and is surrendering 5.31 yards per tote to enemy ball carriers. The matchup, on paper, is ripe for the picking. ... Because there is so much potential for Falcons-Saints to turn into a pass-happy shootout, and Jacquizz Rodgers is Atlanta's passing-down back, it should surprise no one if he plays more snaps than Turner in this game. He's done it on and off all year. Whether Rodgers will get the ball enough to prove a worthwhile fantasy spot start is up in the air. He's received single-digit touches in three of his last four games. Still, you could do much worse than Rodgers for a dice-roll flex play, especially in PPR. This is a game that plays to Rodgers' strengths as a versatile running back who can make defenders miss in space.

Score Prediction: Saints 35, Falcons 30

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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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