Evan Silva


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Matchups: Dez'll Do It

Sunday, November 11, 2012

4:25PM ET Games

Dallas @ Philadelphia

Dez Bryant has missed practice time and been listed as questionable twice this year -- Weeks 7 at Carolina and 9 at Atlanta. In those games, he's amassed seven combined targets for three catches and 29 yards. In his healthy six games, Bryant is averaging ten targets, 6.5 receptions, and 79 yards. Bryant was largely a decoy against the Falcons last week, running clear-out routes as Miles Austin and Jason Witten racked up seven catches apiece. Listed as probable for Week 10 after a full practice week, look for Dez to be the go-to guy in a game plan that attacks struggling RCB Nnamdi Asomugha. Asomugha has zero recovery speed and can't tackle -- big problems against Dez's explosiveness and physicality. ... Kevin Ogletree's 3/96/1 stat line looks good in the Week 9 box score, but Dallas' coaching staff contemplated reducing his snaps this week because he's been so error prone. Ogletree suffered his third drop in the past five games at Atlanta, and is missing assignments and blowing blocks. He's part of Tony Romo's problem, not a solution. ESPN Dallas reported this week that there is a "high level of frustration" with Ogletree inside Valley Ranch. ... Austin has at least nine targets in three straight games, and is a top-five fantasy receiver over the past three weeks. Philadelphia's pass defense presents a favorable matchup for any opposing wideout, so confidently fire up Austin.

If the Eagles were rushing the passer like they did in 2011, perhaps Jason Witten would have to stay in to block, affecting his Week 10 outlook. But Philly's anemic pass rush has produced all of 11 sacks through eight games, ranking 31st in the NFL. Since a slow start, Witten has locked himself back in as an every-week starter. ... Bryant, Austin, and Witten are all recommended plays, and so is Romo. This is the kind of game in which Romo -- or any quarterback, for that matter -- should thrive. No real threat of pressure and slumping defensive backs. Start 'em. ... Philly plays middling run defense (No. 16 rank, 4.23 YPC allowed), but Dallas' lack of backfield clarity and running lanes makes Felix Jones, Lance Dunbar, and Phillip Tanner undesirable fantasy options. Managing just 113 yards on his last 41 carries (2.76 YPC), Jones is playing so poorly that he could be overtaken this game by undrafted rookie Dunbar. Jones finished last week's game with 70 yards on five receptions, although he got 41 of the yards on the two final plays of the game, on desperation throws with Atlanta in an "umbrella" prevent defense. Those receiving stats are not a sign of things to come. I personally might play Dunbar over Jones in Week 10.

Michael Vick is keeping his starting job for one more week. It's the right decision by coach Andy Reid, because he'd otherwise be throwing rookie Nick Foles into a dumpster fire of an offense. Starting four backup linemen, the Eagles simply can not pass protect, and it's reached the point that they're pushing Arizona for the worst O-Line in football. "The Eagles right now on offense are a mess," NFL Films' Greg Cosell said on ESPN Radio this week. "Rob Ryan is probably salivating when he looks at this offense. ... They can't recognize and react to pressure. I think Rob Ryan will come at them." Saints DC Steve Spagnuolo laid the blueprint for torpedoing Philly's offense last Monday night, blitzing on every snap. Dallas ranks fifth in pass defense and plays outstanding back-end coverage. It's difficult to imagine the Eagles moving the ball through the air in this game. ... Reid has always been a pass-happy playcaller, but he'd be smart to draw up a three-step-drop passing game and lean heavily on LeSean McCoy, at least in this matchup. Losing ILB Sean Lee has weakened the Cowboys' run defense, and declining Michael Turner lit them up for 102 yards and a score on 20 carries (5.10 YPC) in Week 9. McCoy has at least 130 total yards and/or a touchdown in five consecutive games. Start McCoy. Strongly consider leaving Vick on your bench.

Although the likelihood of Week 10 passing game success is minimal for Philadelphia, Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson remain in the WR3 mix because they both possess big-play ability and can score long touchdowns. The Cowboys' defensive backs move around too much to try to guess coverage assignments, but ultimately neither Eagles wideout has an especially attractive matchup this week. ... In pass coverage at least, Dallas has done well to mitigate the impact of Sean Lee's loss with effective safety play and by plugging impressive street free agent Ernie Sims into the lineup adjacent Bruce Carter. The Cowboys have held Tony Gonzalez (4-36), Martellus Bennett (4-29), and Greg Olsen (4-31) in check over the past three weeks. Having failed to clear 60 receiving yards in any game since Week 2, Brent Celek offers scant fantasy upside on the surface and lacks an appealing matchup. ... Mike Clay of Rotoworld and Pro Football Focus has touted Eagles rookie RB Bryce Brown as a recommended fantasy "stash" all season long. He’s a guy who could become an every-week fantasy starter if McCoy got hurt. Brown showed his big-run potential on a 40-yarder in last week's loss to the Saints, and is worth rostering if you have space.

Score Prediction: Cowboys 28, Eagles 17

St. Louis @ San Francisco

The Rams' run defense has played much better since first-round DT Michael Brockers returned from an early-season high ankle sprain. But the Niners' overpowering offensive line and blocking schemes ruin even the league's best defensive fronts. That was particularly evident in Week 7, when Frank Gore busted up Seattle for 182 total yards on 21 touches. Gore's overworked legs are fresh returning from a Week 9 bye, and it's difficult to imagine St. Louis stopping him. ... Kendall Hunter still isn't a standalone fantasy option -- he needs a Gore injury for that -- but he continues to be one of fantasy's top running back stashes. Used most often to attack the edges of defenses, Hunter is averaging 5.02 yards a carry with seven catches. He could be a 15-17 touch-per-game player behind the NFL's premier run-blocking line if Gore went down. ... The Rams have allowed the seventh most fantasy points tight ends, creating a favorable Week 10 matchup for Vernon Davis. In a three-game funk, Davis has burned St. Louis for at least 70 yards and/or a touchdown in five of their past six meetings. He ripped up the Rams for an 8-118 stat line last January. Glass-half-full fantasy owners can speculate that the 49ers tweaked their offense during the bye to help free up Davis for more pass-catching opportunities. Defenses have been taking him away of late.

The Rams’ defensive strength is secondary play and the outside-edge rush of Robert Quinn and Chris Long. Opposing offenses typically draw up game plans against St. Louis that attempt to minimize the impact of the high-motor and athletic defensive ends. Look for a quick-strike approach that goes heavy on three-step drops out of San Francisco on Sunday. It would play to the strengths of Davis and slot/Z receiver Michael Crabtree. … Randy Moss and Mario Manningham are less likely to contribute to the Niners’ offensive success. Although Moss scored a 47-yard catch-and-run touchdown in Week 8 against the Cardinals, before the Week 9 bye, I didn’t think he “looked like the old Moss” at all on that play, as some have suggested. He looked awfully stiff, like his fluidity and quick-twitch athleticism have evaporated. He’d be an incredibly poor fantasy bet in this game. … Manningham has one touchdown on the season and is averaging under 40 yards per game. Aim higher. … Alex Smith is a two-quarterback league option only against the Rams. He’s 18th in fantasy quarterback scoring, and likely headed for a low volume of pass attempts as the Niners attack the Rams with the run.

The Rams will get some offensive line reinforcements coming off a Week 9 bye, but they could be at full strength and still get pile driven by San Francisco's defensive front. This is a mismatch. Steven Jackson has been running better all season than his stats indicate, but a combo of poor front-five play, brutal schedule, and his timeshare with Daryl Richardson have left S-Jax at 26th in running back scoring. Jackson has better matchups ahead -- like Week 11 versus the Jets -- but this week he's no better than a low-end flex. Attacking the Niners with Richardson might be the Rams' best bet. ... That doesn't make Richardson a great fantasy play, of course. San Francisco has incredible speed at linebacker, particularly on the interior with Navorro Bowman and Patrick Willis, and routinely make life difficult on opposing run games that try to get the perimeter. Fantasy owners are better off avoiding the Rams' backfield altogether in Week 10. ... There are two other St. Louis skill players worth fantasy consideration Sunday. The first is Danny Amendola, who can beat 49ers CB Carlos Rogers with superior quickness in the slot. Healthy again, Amendola should be immediately reinserted into PPR lineups as a WR3. He's a low-end option in standard settings as a poor bet for touchdowns in this matchup. ... Rookie burner Chris Givens is the other. Givens has big-play ability and elite straight-line speed, but fantasy owners would ideally put him on a wait-and-see week at San Francisco. He may or may not play ahead of veteran Brandon Gibson.

Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Rams 14

Sunday Night Football

Houston @ Chicago

Texans-Bears is the biggest game of Week 10, and it’s not really close, but it isn’t a good game to target for fantasy purposes. Each team is playing top-six defense and ranks in the top three in sacks. Start your studs, but shy away from borderline fantasy starters. … Jay Cutler could be in for a long night barring an ingenious game plan from OC Mike Tice. Wade Phillips’ Texans defense will attack Cutler with the blitz, and it’s no secret that Chicago’s team weakness is offensive line play. This game has potential to get ugly, quickly for Chicago’s passing attack. … Phillips promises to double team Brandon Marshall on every down Sunday night, which makes sense because Marshall is the Bears’ only real threat in the passing game. Cutler has shown time and time again, however, that he is willing to throw to Marshall when covered. And Marshall moves around the formation and is skilled enough to both defeat and simply avoid double teams. Start Marshall with confidence. He’s on pace for nearly 120 receptions, 1,600 yards, and 14 touchdowns. … Earl Bennett, Devin Hester, and Kellen Davis are waiver-wire material in fantasy leagues. If the Bears are going to have any passing game success against the Texans, it will almost certainly be because Cutler is fitting the football into tight spaces to Marshall.

Rookie wideout Alshon Jeffery may be the long-term answer for the Bears’ inability to establish an alternative passing-game weapon behind Marshall. Unfortunately, Jeffery is listed as doubtful with a fractured hand. … Tice can give Marshall, Cutler, and his offensive line help by leaning on the run game Sunday night. Chicago’s offensive line is much better as a run-blocking than pass-protecting group, and Matt Forte is rolling with 362 yards on his last 68 carries. That’s good for a 5.32 YPC clip. Houston’s heavyweight 3-4 front seven is susceptible to backs that get out in space, and Forte is that kind of a runner. Lock him into fantasy lineups. … Michael Bush saw an uptick in Week 9 carries due only to the fact that the Bears were blowing out the Titans. He still managed just 33 scoreless yards on 11 touches. Bush is a fantasy handcuff and nothing more.

Finding pay dirt for the fifth time in six games during last week's win over Buffalo, Owen Daniels leapfrogged Tony Gonzalez and Heath Miller in fantasy tight end scoring and is now No. 2 overall behind Rob Gronkowski. Daniels is an every-week TE1 and must-start if he plays, but he missed early-week practices with a hip injury. Keep an eye on this situation into Sunday. Daniels may be a game-time decision. … Lovie Smith's Cover 2 defense is annually exposable down the middle. This year, Chicago has allowed the fifth most receptions and 13th most yards to tight ends. Daniels owners can protect themselves against a pre-game scratch by securing productive backup James Casey. Casey is a good player, and this is a great matchup. ... On the other hand, the Bears present as unfavorable a matchup as it gets for any receiver who aligns to the outside of the formation. And that's where Andre Johnson plays. Perhaps downgrade him from WR2 to top-end WR3 if you're wideout rich, but Johnson is coming off an awfully impressive Week 9 game. He dog-walked Bills LCB Aaron Williams' coverage for the first two quarters, before Williams suffered a knee injury. Usual RCB Stephon Gilmore was subsequently assigned to shadow Johnson, and Gilmore got abused, too. Johnson finished with 118 yards on eight receptions, and missed a 30-yard fourth-quarter touchdown bomb by a foot on a slight Matt Schaub overthrow. Johnson is working on a three-game receiving average of 8-93.

Ranked No. 19 in fantasy quarterback scoring through the season’s first nine weeks, Schaub is a mid-range to low-end QB2 who offers upside and streamer appeal only when the Texans are involved in possible shootouts. There is seemingly little chance that Houston-Chicago could evolve into a shootout. Schaub is not on the QB1 radar this week, and he’s not a great two-quarterback league option, either. … I suspect we will see usual LCB Charles Tillman match up with Johnson in this game, while RCB Tim Jennings moves to the other side to take on Kevin Walter. Jennings is no slouch and Walter is too often an afterthought in Chicago’s passing game for confident fantasy use. … The Bears rank No. 6 in run defense, although they’d be No. 1 or 2 if not for last week’s 80-yard touchdown allowed to Chris Johnson in garbage time, by Lovie’s second-team group. Arian Foster’s fantasy owners can still count on heavy volume and goal-line chances to keep their RB1’s Week 10 outlook afloat. Ben Tate (hamstring) will miss another game. Foster leads the NFL in carries (384 pace), touches (408), and touchdowns (22).

Score Prediction: Texans 20, Bears 17

Monday Night Football

Kansas City @ Pittsburgh

Man, that Week 9 same-day flight really cost the Steelers. Not. Pittsburgh's defense dominated the Giants' offense in last Sunday's 24-20 win, putting the game away with a relentless fourth-quarter power run game. Back home where they haven't lost since early last November, the Steelers will look to pour points on a Chiefs team OC Todd Haley still feels did him wrong with last year's in-season firing. "There is no love lost between Todd Haley and Chiefs GM Scott Pioli," said Adam Schefter on SportsCenter this week. "If the Steelers have a chance to run up the score, Haley would not hesitate to do that. This is a very important game to him." ... Ben Roethlisberger is playing career-best football in Haley's offense. At the season's halfway point, he's on pace for career highs in pass attempts (596), TD-to-INT ratio (32:8), and passing yards (4,406). He's the No. 7 fantasy quarterback and an every-week QB1. ... Coach Mike Tomlin is promising a "hot hand" backfield against the Chiefs with Jonathan Dwyer returning from a quad injury to pair with Isaac Redman. The matchup is obviously favorable; Kansas City ranks 22nd against the run. The carry distribution is up in the air. Dwyer and Redman are both dicey flex options on Monday night.

The Chiefs have used SS Eric Berry in man coverage of tight ends all year. Berry is struggling mightily. Kansas City's production allowed to tight ends isn't off the charts, but this is a plus matchup for Heath Miller. Miller is the No. 3 fantasy tight end, so shake off his relatively slow Week 9 stat line (4-48) and start him. ... It was too little, too late for Kansas City to roll heads this week, stripping coach Romeo Crennel's defensive coordinator duties and cutting RCB Stanford Routt. They may have wanted to wait one more week to cut Routt, though. At least he can run. On Monday night, fleet-footed Mike Wallace will spend most of his snaps in heavy-legged RCBs Javier Arenas and Travis Daniels' coverage. And Haley -- who helped draft Arenas -- knows Kansas City's defensive personnel well. Wallace's volume of deep routes has diminished in Haley's quick-hitting, Kurt Warnerian offense, but this would be an ideal matchup to unleash the speed demon. ... Chiefs LCB Brandon Flowers has been targeted by offenses just nine times in the past three games. Per Pro Football Focus, Philip Rivers completely ignored Flowers' side of the field in Week 9, not challenging his coverage on any of Rivers' 20 throws. It speaks to the respect offenses have for Flowers' cover skills, as well as the target on the back of Kansas City's other corners. Emmanuel Sanders is an appealing WR3 with Antonio Brown (high ankle sprain) out for Week 10, but fantasy owners need to hope he doesn't get stuck on Flowers' side of the field.


Friday Update: I've gotten a few questions about Wallace's cornerback matchup. Wallace is an "X" receiver, playing the majority of his snaps on the left side of the offensive formation. He lines up most often against RCBs. Under Crennel, the Chiefs have unfailingly "played sides" at cornerback, leaving Flowers at left corner with Routt -- and Brandon Carr before him -- always aligning at right corner. They have never used Flowers to shadow opposing top receivers. If the Chiefs play like they always play, and the Steelers play like they always play, Wallace should avoid Flowers' coverage on the majority of Monday night's snaps.


Saturday Morning Update: I got Wallace's formation stats from Mike Clay. Per Clay's charted data, Wallace has played 60 percent of his 2012 snaps at LWR (typically the X receiver). Wallace has played only 28 percent at RWR, the receiver spot that goes against Flowers' side of the field. Wallace has played 12 percent of his snaps in the slot. So I stand by the projection that Wallace will avoid Flowers' coverage for the majority of this game.

The Steelers rank No. 1 in the NFL in total defense. They are No. 1 against the pass and No. 7 against the run, so you aren’t going to find any good fantasy matchups on the Chiefs’ side. … If you are starting Jamaal Charles, you are essentially entrusting your fantasy lineup decision to a combination of the running back’s talent and Kansas City’s coaching staff. You’re betting that Charles is capable of making big plays – he obviously is – and that the Chiefs will give him opportunities to do so. The latter is dicey. We can say this confidently: Playcaller Brian Daboll would be a complete fool to run Peyton Hillis into the Steelers’ brick-wall defense on Monday night. … The quarterback and offensive situation as a whole haven’t helped, but the primary reason Jon Baldwin hasn’t been producing is because he isn’t playing well. He isn’t separating from defensive backs or turning his opportunities into big plays. He’s waiver-wire fodder. … Steelers RCB Ike Taylor is shutting down receivers left and right since a slow start to the season. Just ask A.J. Green (1-8-1), Hakeem Nicks (1-10-0), and Leonard Hankerson (1-16). There is hope for Dwayne Bowe, though. It’s called garbage time. … So much for Tony Moeaki's eight-target, 57-yard Week 8 game. He wasn't targeted on a single Week 9 pass. Moeaki is not on the fantasy radar.

Score Prediction: Steelers 30, Chiefs 7

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

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