Evan Silva


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Matchups: Dez'll Do It

Sunday, November 11, 2012

1:00PM ET Games

NY Giants @ Cincinnati

Mired in a midseason skid, Eli Manning's accuracy has been an issue in each of his past three games, even if the Giants have managed to win two of them. Fantasy owners haven't been quite as fortunate, as Manning has posted a 1:4 TD-to-INT ratio during the cold streak and failed to clear 200 yards in each of the past two. Cincinnati's slow-footed secondary makes for a sensible opponent against which Eli can re-find his stroke. The Bengals rank 19th against the pass, have permitted a 12:5 TD-to-INT ratio, and only four NFL defenses are yielding a higher passer rating. Each of Eli's last two opponents (Dallas, Pittsburgh) rank top-five in pass defense, so hindsight tells us back-to-back slow games shouldn't have surprised. Manning may not be a locked-in QB1 at Cincinnati, but he's a high-end QB2, at the least, and squarely on the radar for quarterback matchup streamers. ... Hakeem Nicks is experiencing swelling in his troublesome knee again, and Martellus Bennett has been quiet. Look for Victor Cruz to step up as the Giants' clear No. 1 pass catcher in Week 10. Cruz plays the vast majority of his snaps at Z and slot receiver, so he'll avoid Bengals top CB Leon Hall for almost all of this game. Squaring off with 34-year-old LCB Terence Newman and 33-year-old slot CB Nate Clements, Cruz might have the best on-paper matchup of any fantasy receiver in Week 10. Despite a two-game scoring lull, Cruz is a top-five wideout play.


Sunday Update: ESPN's Bob Holtzman reported Sunday morning that the Bengals will use Hall to shadow Cruz one-on-one in this game. It is an unusual strategy for the Bengals because they have never used Hall to mirror opposing No. 1 receivers, instead simply leaving him on the right side every snap. Either way, you play Cruz with confidence as a WR1. The strategy also works to improve Nicks' matchup. Nicks will now deal with 34-year-old Newman, who is Cincinnati's lesser cover corner.

Continuing to battle knee flareups, Nicks vows to play Sunday. Although he's capable of a blowup game at any time, it's becoming increasingly difficult to trust Nicks when he's cleared 55 yards in one game this season and ranks 64th in fantasy receiver scoring over the past three weeks. The matchup with Hall also won't be easy. Downgrade Nicks to a WR3 until he puts something in a box score. ... On Adam Caplan's Week 10 preview podcast, NFL Films' Greg Cosell suggested that increasing Bennett's involvement might be a good way for the G-Men to attack Cincy in this game. "Against this defense in particular, against those linebackers and safeties, Bennett is an attractive option," Cosell said. “... I think this Bengals defense is a good defense (against which) to utilize the tight end." ... Andre Brown has scored a goal-line touchdown in three straight games. Ahmad Bradshaw has 16 red-zone carries compared to Brown's five over that span, so it isn't as if Bradshaw has been stripped of his role in scoring position. In Brown's case, the goal-line success is going to be incredibly difficult to sustain and count on in fantasy leagues. And Brown will hurt you if he doesn't find pay dirt for a fourth week. Brown has 16 combined touches for 75 yards over the three-game stretch. ... Although his yards-per-carry average continues to slip on a weekly basis, Bradshaw remains the Giants' clear-cut primary back, well ahead of Brown and rookie David Wilson. Bradshaw is a mid-range to low-end RB2 option against Cincinnati's No. 17 run defense.


Friday Update: Top Bengals safety Reggie Nelson won't play against the Giants due to a hamstring injury. Behind Hall, Nelson is Cincinnati's best defensive back. While there are reports of a "tired arm" for Eli, he's capable of snapping out of it at any moment. And this continues to be a highly favorable matchup.

After a hot start to the year, Andy Dalton has taken a step back. He has eight turnovers over his last four games, struggling to move the offense aside from garbage time. "It's been a continuing problem that Dalton has broken down a bit in the pocket," Cosell opined, based on tape study. "He has not played with the same precision. ... He's gotta work his way through this." Breaking down in the pocket would be problematic against a Giants defense that ranks third in sacks and is tied with Chicago for the NFL lead in interceptions. Dalton should be able to throw for enough yards against a poor New York secondary to support a strong fantasy game or two from his pass catchers, but he remains an entrenched QB2 and weak streamer option. ... The Giants continue to use Corey Webster in shadow coverage of top receivers, and he got beat last week for a 51-yard touchdown by Mike Wallace. This week's matchup with A.J. Green will be Webster's toughest all year. Fresh off a 7/99/1 pummeling of Champ Bailey -- who is way better than Webster -- Green is the league's best fantasy wideout play this week. ... The Bengals seem intent on making Jermaine Gresham their No. 2 pass option. They've given up on Armon Binns (benched, six snaps in Week 9), and still don't fancy Andrew Hawkins as an every-down player. This is a very nice matchup for Gresham. The Giants have surrendered the second most receptions and yards to tight ends, and won't have SS Kenny Phillips (knee) on Sunday. Gresham is a rock-solid TE1 play in Week 10.

The Giants have quietly had major run defense issues all year. They were exposed loudly in last week's loss to Pittsburgh -- by plodder Isaac Redman. Although he's rarely a recommended fantasy start in this space, fellow plodder BenJarvus Green-Ellis has a favorable Week 10 matchup. Trot him out as a flex against the G-Men and trade him as fast as you can if he has a big game. ... Binns was benched for Brandon Tate in Week 9. Tate secured 1-of-6 targets for 17 yards. If the Bengals are going to continue to stereotype Hawkins as a slot-guy only who can't function on early downs, their second receiver problem will last all year long. ... Coming off a Week 8 bye, Pro Football Focus charted Hawkins with a season-high 58-of-77 snaps (75.3 percent) versus Denver, although he still played less than Tate and the Bengals used more three-receiver, passing-down formations than usual due to the Broncos' 17-3, early third-quarter lead. With Giants rookie CB Jayron Hosley struggling mightily at slot corner, this game would be a great opportunity for the Bengals to exploit their one-on-one slot matchup. Will they do so? Your guess is as good as mine.

Score Prediction: Giants 27, Bengals 17

San Diego @ Tampa Bay

It may be too early to declare Philip Rivers all the way "back," but his Week 9 effort against the Chiefs was a step forward. It's also a reminder that Rivers has generally played well whenever LT Jared Gaither has been healthy enough to guard his blindside. In Gaither's four starts, Rivers has completed 81-of-119 throws (68.1 percent) for 937 yards (7.87 YPA), and a 6:3 TD-to-INT ratio. Rivers' numbers in four games without Gaither are 94-of-144 for 929 yards (6.45 YPA), six touchdowns, and seven picks. Gaither is expected to start his fifth game of the season at Tampa Bay, re-launching Rivers onto the low-end QB1 radar. The Bucs rank 32nd in pass defense. ... Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal have been free-agent busts. Danario Alexander and Seyi Ajirotutu were signed off the street midseason, and genuinely played better against K.C. than Royal and Meachem have all year. Alexander was particularly rock solid opposite Malcom Floyd, securing 3-of-3 targets for 61 yards. Coach Norv Turner this week vowed to involve Alexander more going forward. "Danario's going to play," Turner promised. "He's going to be a big part of what we do. It gives us another guy, and we can roll them and keep them fresh and use all the guys we have."


Friday Update: Gaither missed practice on Friday and is now considered unlikely to play in Week 10. As the statistics with him and without him in the lineup indicate, Gaither's absence would be cause for concern for Rivers and the rest of San Diego's offense. Keep an eye on this situation if you're looking to start Chargers skill-position players in your fantasy league. Downgrade them if Gaither is declared inactive Sunday morning.

While Tampa's defense presents a favorable matchup, San Diego's emerging receiver committee behind Floyd makes Alexander, Meachem, and Royal unattractive fantasy options. Alexander is probably the best bet, but there are no guarantees on his targets or playing time. He does qualify as a Week 10 spot-start sleeper with upside. ... On pace for 1,018 yards, Floyd will be the Chargers' lone every-down wideout from here on out and is a strong WR3. ... Antonio Gates has fallen well short of 2012 expectations, but he has 11 catches for 138 yards and three TDs over his past three games. The Bucs permit the ninth most fantasy points to tight ends, and Gates' 32-year-old legs are fresh after a ten-day layoff between games. ... Ryan Mathews is averaging 98 total yards per game since rejoining the starting lineup in Week 4. He isn't scoring touchdowns, but San Diego hasn't scored rushing TDs as a team. The Bolts are tied for 27th in the NFL with four running scores at the halfway point, and that stat is likely to progress toward the mean over the final eight games. The Bucs obviously present a difficult Week 10 matchup. They rank No. 1 in run defense and allow the lowest yards-per-carry average (3.43) in football. Unless I'm filthy rich at running back, I'd still be hard pressed to bench a guy handling the ball over 21 times a game over the past month and averaging 4.43 YPC in an offense bound for second-half improvement.

Carl Nicks, who? The Bucs' run blocking wasn't a problem whatsoever in last week's win over the Raiders. Oakland entered the game playing red-hot run defense, having skyrocketed to No. 11 in the NFL rankings and permitting just 3.88 yards per carry. Doug Martin and his Nicks-less, Davin Joseph-less offensive line reeled back and socked the Raiders in the mouth. Per ESPN Stats & Information, 197 of Martin's 251 yards (78.5 percent) were gained before contact, which confirms the rookie running back had running lanes. ... That's not to take away from Martin's independent running ability, though. He made defenders whiff before they had time to engage, and ripped off three highlight-reel long touchdown runs. The light flipped on for the entire Bucs offense during their Week 5 bye. They're averaging 38 points in four games since, and Martin is keying the group with 547 yards and seven all-purpose TDs on 83 carries (6.59 YPC) over that span. Matchups don't matter for RB1s, and Martin has officially graduated to RB1 status. ... While Martin's outlook heads north, LeGarrette Blount's continues to trend due south. On the second of his two Week 9 carries, Blount botched his exchange with Josh Freeman, losing a fumble. Blount didn't play a single snap the rest of the way. We may not see Blount in a game again this year.

"He's got the big ball going," ESPN's Trent Dilfer observed of Freeman on this week's Monday Night Countdown. "This team pushes it down the football field. Freeman's downfield accuracy has been phenomenal all year long and is producing points. They're a run-driven offense that sets up isolation plays outside, and Freeman is throwing the ball decisively, locating it well, and his receivers are making plays." With the ground attack clicking and play-action game following suit, Freeman is working on a month-long average of 315 yards with a combined 11:1 TD-to-INT ratio. Tied for 28th in sacks and permitting the eighth most passing touchdowns in football, San Diego presents an unimposing Week 10 passing-game matchup. Start Freeman as a QB1 until he slows down. ... Leading the NFL in yards-per-catch average (22.9) and on pace for career highs in yards (1,420) and touchdowns (14), Jackson should get the better of RCB Antoine Cason on Sunday. Pro Football Focus grades Cason 94th out of 103 qualifying cornerbacks this season. V-Jax also happens to have a bone to pick with the Chargers. He's a WR1 in Week 10. ... Mike Williams will have a tougher time with LCB Quentin Jammer, who is covering well and matches up favorably with Tampa's No. 2 receiver in terms of size and skill set. Williams is more of a WR3 this week.

Score Prediction: Bucs 27, Chargers 24

Detroit @ Minnesota

Scoring three times inside the ten-yard line won't happen every week, but there are reasons to believe Mikel Leshoure can remain a high-scoring stretch-run RB2. A quick-footed, angry runner who stays north-south, Leshoure's physicality consistently shows up on tape and he plays in an offense that forces defenses to keep eight out of the box. Leshoure leaves some yards on the field because his vision is lacking and he runs to contact rather than away from it, but he offers matchup-proof potential in an offense catching fire. And Minnesota's run defense is collapsing. "Their front seven, which played very well early in the season, has not played particularly well in recent weeks," observed Cosell. "They're getting moved up front." Indeed. Over their last four games, the Vikings have served up 663 yards and six rushing touchdowns on 144 carries (4.60 YPC) to Arizona, Washington, Tampa Bay, and Seattle. Leshoure is running well and this is a good matchup. Lock him in. ... Joique Bell is an oft-used change-of-pace back in the offense, but his recent box scores are difficult to trust as a predictive measure because so much of his production has come in garbage time. I think it would be a stretch to start Bell, even as a flex, because if you do you are essentially banking on Detroit blowout out Minnesota. And even as poorly as the Vikings have played recently, there are certainly no guarantees that will happen.

Matthew Stafford played well for the second straight game in Week 9 at Jacksonville. Leshoure's three first-half rushing TDs sapped Stafford's fantasy points in that particular game, but as alluded to previously, that's not going to happen very often. What the box score won't tell you was that Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Ryan Broyles were Detroit's primary means of ball movement all game. Start Stafford and Megatron in Week 10 against a Vikings defense that is still without top outside CB Chris Cook (broken arm) and surrendered three touchdowns to rookie Russell Wilson last week. ... Broyles is going to be a fun player to own moving forward, but he has the toughest matchup of any Detroit skill-position player. Broyles plays in the slot and Antoine Winfield is the Vikings' slot corner. ... In Week 9, Titus Young beat Jaguars CB Aaron Ross on an early fourth-quarter bomb try from 25 yards out, and dropped the would-be over-the-shoulder touchdown. Battling knee tendinitis and on-field inconsistency, Young will continue to be a boom-or-bust fantasy play. ... Megatron (knee, stinger) doesn't need practice. Playing 60-of-72 snaps, Johnson carved up Jags top CB Derek Cox for the majority of his 7/129 stat line last week and is the best receiver bet for the season's final eight games. ... The Vikings have been generous enough to tight ends this year that Brandon Pettigrew is on the back-end TE1 radar in Week 10. Minnesota has allowed the 12th most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. Pettigrew offers scant upside, but he's always a solid bet for 5-6 catches.

Christian Ponder continued his three-week cliff drop in Week 9, reaching a new low in yards per pass attempt (2.9) and generating a pathetic 63 yards on 22 throws. Ponder is playing like the worst quarterback in the NFL right now. "Ponder has not been a comfortable player," Cosell said. "I think that he's not seeing things very clearly, at all. He's playing a little too fast. He's quick to react when he sees opposing color. And right now, they can't throw the football." The Lions don't play stout pass defense, but Minnesota has fast become an offense to avoid, aside from Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin, when healthy. ... Harvin (ankle) will be a game-time decision. He's the toughest pound-for-pound player in the league, and you've got to start him if he's active. Harvin’s chances didn’t look good midweek, but we’ll find out Sunday morning. ... Until Ponder picks it up, there is little room for optimism on Kyle Rudolph. Even if Harvin sits out, the Vikings could just as soon turn to Michael Jenkins, Devin Aromashodu, or Jerome Simpson, spreading the "wealth" in a low-volume pass attack. Look for Minnesota to lean heavily on Peterson's running in Week 10, and avoid the Vikings' passing offense entirely unless Harvin plays.


Sunday Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Harvin will not play against the Lions. The Vikings had better hope Peterson delivers a monster game. If Ponder plays anything like he has the past three games, Minnesota will not move the ball through the air, even against a banged-up Detroit pass defense.

Score Prediction: Lions 27, Vikings 14

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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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