Evan Silva


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Matchups: Feelin' Lucky

Sunday, November 18, 2012

1:00PM ET Games

Green Bay @ Detroit

The absence of All-Pro OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring) will have a major, negative impact on Green Bay's defense, and it's not to be underestimated. Matthews is an every-snap difference maker, collapsing the pocket relentlessly and drawing double and triple teams when he doesn't, making life easier on his teammates. Likely to operate in clean quarters Sunday, Matthew Stafford is a top-four fantasy quarterback play. ... The Packers-Lions over-under stands at 52 points, which is the third highest scoring projection of the week but still seems conservative. At domed Ford Field, this game has pass-happy shootout written all over it. ... In case you forgot: Calvin Johnson is the league's best wideout both in real life and fantasy. He's on pace to lead the NFL in receiving yards for the second straight year. Tramon Williams is no match for him, evidenced by Megatron’s combined 15-293-2 line in two 2011 matchups with Williams’ coverage. ... Although game-by-game consistency will likely remain an issue, Titus Young is a top-ten fantasy receiver over the past three weeks and a recommended, high-upside WR3 against the Packers. ... Stafford's target distribution since Nate Burleson suffered a year-ending injury in Week 7: Megatron 29, Brandon Pettigrew and Young 21, Joique Bell 16, Tony Scheffler and Ryan Broyles 12, Mikel Leshoure 10.

What Pettigrew lacks in big-play ability (sub-10 yards per catch, two TDs in nine games) he can sometimes make up for with volume. Although never an upside play, Pettigrew is on the back-end TE1 radar against Green Bay. ... While it isn't out of the question that Broyles could prove a worthwhile WR3 play if this game evolves into a shootout, the ball simply isn't traveling his way enough for confident fantasy usage. Playing under 50 percent of the snaps, Broyles is a high-risk, low-reward option. He was targeted once in Week 10. ... Scheffler is a rotational player and clear-cut TE2. ... The Packers rank tenth against the run, but Matthews' loss will be felt on the ground, too. Pro Football Focus has graded Matthews as a top-eight run defender among 3-4 outside linebackers. It typically pays to start goal-line backs in high-scoring affairs -- when they aren't Michael Turner, at least -- and Leshoure has a stranglehold on red-zone carries in the Detroit offense. Shake off Leshoure's disappointing Week 10 game at Minnesota and start him versus the Packers. ... Bell is just a change-of-pace runner behind Leshoure and won't rack up rushing attempts unless Detroit is blowing out its opponent. We saw it last week against the Vikings: Bell had one carry as Minnesota grabbed an early lead and controlled the game. Bell has more value in PPR leagues, as he's emerged as the Lions' primary passing-down back. Bell still shouldn't appeal to fantasy owners much. He's more of a bench stash who could become start-able if Leshoure suffered an injury.

"He's sort of become a featured receiver," NFL Films guru Greg Cosell observed of Randall Cobb on Adam Caplan's Week 11 preview podcast. "He's been used effectively as a movable chess piece." Per ESPN Stats & Info, Aaron Rodgers has completed 78.9 percent of his pass attempts to Cobb this season. It's the most efficient clip of any quarterback-receiver duo in the game, 50-throw minimum. There are only four wideouts in the NFL who I think are better Week 11 fantasy starts than Cobb: Megatron, A.J. Green, Demaryius Thomas, and Roddy White. ... Rodgers has owned the Lions in his career. Rodgers' stats in the six games he's played start to finish against Detroit: 136-of-195 (69.7 percent) for 1,830 yards (9.38 YPA), and a 16:3 TD-to-INT ratio. He's also never faced the Lions when they've been this banged up in the secondary. Anticipate a big game. ... The Week 10 bye appears to have done wonders for Jordy Nelson's hamstring and ankle injuries; the Packers practiced four times this week and he participated in all four. You might want to play Nelson against a Lions defense missing 3-of-4 defensive back starters. ... James Jones has seven touchdowns over his last six games. He has emerged this season as Green Bay's best pure red-zone receiver and remains an every-week WR3, even with Nelson healthy.

Jermichael Finley has not scored a touchdown since Week 1, and he's failed to top 60 yards all season. He's the No. 25 fantasy tight end and little more than a bye-week fill-in until he starts putting something, anything in the box score. ... Cedric Benson (foot sprain) is tentatively expected back in Week 14. Green Bay's backfield is likely to be a fantasy quagmire until then. Plodder James Starks will be the primary early-down back. Alex Green will be the change-of-pace runner and play in the no-huddle offense. John Kuhn returns from a hamstring injury to retake the third-down job, and he may also swipe goal-line carries. It's a situation to avoid in fantasy leagues, even in a possible high-scoring game. I suppose Starks would be the best bet because he's likely to receive the most rushing attempts, but he is no longer trusted in the passing game and is unlikely to score touchdowns. No, thanks.

Score Prediction: Packers 33, Lions 28

Arizona @ Atlanta

Arizona's No. 2-ranked unit will be the third top-ten pass defense Matt Ryan has faced this year. Ryan carved up the other two for a combined 47-of-65 passing (72.3 percent), 641 yards (9.86 YPA), four all-purpose touchdowns, and zero turnovers. The No. 3 fantasy passer through ten weeks, there's every reason to believe Ryan is matchup proof. ... Ray Horton's Arizona defense is a blitz-happy group that ranks fourth in sacks and forces opposing quarterbacks to turn to "hot" receivers when a free blitzer comes unblocked. Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez are Ryan's most frequent hot reads. I like White's chances of leading the Falcons in Week 11 receiving. ... Ryan's target distribution since Atlanta's Week 7 bye: White 27, Gonzalez 25, Julio Jones 16, Jacquizz Rodgers 14, Harry Douglas 9, Michael Turner 4. ... Although Jones' target numbers seem low, he's compensated with incredible efficiency, securing 14-of-16 for 327 yards and a touchdown over the last three games. He's chipped in two rushes for 17 additional yards. Jones is a locked-in, every-week WR1, but I think he'll have the most difficult Week 11 matchup of Atlanta's pass catchers. While Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson has not emerged as a shutdown corner this season, he's the best Arizona can do. And I think he will shadow Jones' footsteps in this game.


Friday Update: The Falcons held Jones out of practice each day this week with an ankle injury, and he's listed as questionable for Week 11. Jones did return after tweaking the ankle in last week's loss to New Orleans, and that's usually a pretty good indication that a player will play in the following game. I think it's also natural to wonder if the Falcons may believe they can defeat the Cardinals at home without Jones. The good news is Arizona-Atlanta has a 1:00PM ET start, and we'll know Jones' status early. Harry Douglas would start at X receiver if Jones were scratched.

An ageless Gonzalez is on pace for a career-high 109 receptions, and to tie his career high for touchdowns (11). He also leads all tight ends in yards. Gonzo has been the single biggest steal of fantasy drafts. His final ADP was the ninth round, and he's had a second-round impact. ... Turner has hurt owners who started him in three of his past four games. He's managed 209 yards on his last 70 carries (2.99 YPC), becoming increasingly prone to stuffs at the line of scrimmage. The potentially Calais Campbell-less Cardinals rank 24th in run defense, and game flow figures to allow the Falcons to rack up Week 11 rushing attempts. At the same time, Turner is battling a groin injury of his own. He had surgery on the same area two offseasons ago and is a hit-or-miss flex play at this point. ... Quizz Rodgers isn't the answer for Atlanta's feature back woes, and he's not getting the ball enough for fantasy start-ability. Rodgers is averaging nine touches for 65 scoreless yards in three games since the Week 7 bye. He has one touchdown on the year. Just a pace-change and passing-down back, Quizz would need a serious Turner injury or outright benching in order to reach reliable flex status. He's not a Week 11 fantasy option.

Arizona returns from its Week 10 bye counting on seventh-round rookie Nate Potter to stabilize John Skelton's blindside protection. Perhaps it’ll be an upgrade on turnstile journeyman D'Anthony Batiste, but Falcons RE John Abraham will still make mince meat out of Potter at the Georgia Dome. Atlanta's defense is merely average -- and a potential Achilles' heel for the team's Super Bowl prospects -- but Arizona's offense is much worse. Start the Falcons' fantasy DEF and don't look for any sudden post-bye fireworks from Skelton. ... In addition to the Potter promotion, the Cardinals made some lineup changes during their open date. Another was elevating first-round pick Michael Floyd to third receiver, in place of Early Doucet. Andre Roberts will now play slot receiver in Arizona's three-wide offense, with Floyd at Z and Larry Fitzgerald at X. While Floyd will remain an undesirable re-draft receiver option moving forward, his progress is worth monitoring for keeper league owners. Whereas Justin Blackmon is stuck in slow motion, Floyd has gotten better on a weekly basis this year.

Skelton's target distribution since replacing Kevin Kolb (ribs) in Week 7: Fitz 30, Roberts 27, Rob Housler 21, Floyd 19, Doucet 14, La'Rod Stephens-Howling 13. ... Inconsistency is inevitable for any receiver dealing with poor quarterback play, but Fitzgerald maintains every-week WR2 value as the featured player in the Cardinals' offense. He's on pace for 91 catches, 1,040 yards, and seven touchdowns. ... Roberts is the No. 21 fantasy receiver through nine weeks. While he doesn't figure to find pay dirt at as high a rate down the stretch, Roberts has earned weekly WR3/4 consideration. He consistently sees seven-plus targets a game and is an every-down receiver in an offense that frequently plays from behind. ... Leave out Stephens-Howling's 20-104-1 Week 7 game, where the Vikings openly admitted they let Arizona run on them, and he has 48 carries for 80 yards on the season. It's a 1.67 YPC average. Stephens-Howling cannot run between the tackles, and Beanie Wells will retake Arizona's backfield reins in Week 12. If you're not going to play Stephens-Howling in your fantasy league this week -- and I'd encourage you not to -- he's worth dropping for a stretch-run "stash" running back with some upside. ... Housler's role has also grown in the offense and he should stay on the mid-range to high-end TE2 radar in the final seven games. He isn't a fantasy starter because he's not scoring touchdowns.

Score Prediction: Falcons 30, Cardinals 10

Tampa Bay @ Carolina

"He's gotten much better reading coverage and taking what the defense is giving him," said NFL Films' Greg Cosell of Josh Freeman this week. "In other words, if he drops back and a first read is taken away, he's now more comfortably and quickly understanding where the second read is. And you know where that's really noticeable? In the red zone." Per Cosell, Freeman has thrown more red-zone touchdowns through nine games than he did all of last season. With a 13:1 TD-to-INT ratio, Freeman is also the No. 2 fantasy quarterback over the last five weeks. Start him as a QB1 against Carolina's 16th-ranked pass defense. ... Vincent Jackson was held in check (4-47) during Tampa's Week 1 matchup with Carolina primarily because the Bucs' coaching staff didn't trust its passing game yet. Tampa Bay finished that contest with a 36:24 run-to-pass ratio. Times have changed. While the Bucs remain a philosophically run-based team, they're also fielding one of the most explosive vertical passing attacks in football these days. V-Jax is the No. 5 overall fantasy wide receiver. On pace for 1,367 yards and 11 touchdowns, he needs to be in lineups at Carolina.

I encouraged you to tread lightly on Mike Williams in Week 10 -- he finished with two catches for 64 scoreless yards -- but I think he needs to be started as a WR3 this week. The Panthers are weak at corner and safety, and there's every reason to expect Freeman to tag them with bomb shots in this matchup. ... Carolina's 16th-ranked run defense has stiffened in recent games, but red-hot Doug Martin has flashed matchup-proof ability, due to workload and individual talent. Even in a relative down Week 10 game against San Diego's No. 2 run defense, Martin received 22 touches and piled up 119 yards. Martin has at least 100 total yards and/or a touchdown in five straight games. He totaled 118 in the aforementioned Week 1 meeting and is a legit RB1. ... Non-factor LeGarrette Blount has fallen to third on the depth chart in Tampa Bay's backfield, playing behind both Martin and D.J. Ware. Blount played one snap in last week's win over San Diego, and rushed once for three yards. He's not even an effective handcuff for Martin owners anymore.

Cosell's take on the Panthers' backfield: "Good running backs are rhythm guys. They need to get into the flow of the game. You can't have a consistent run game when your back doesn't know if he's gonna get the ball." Carolina's refusal to commit to Jonathan Stewart -- or even DeAngelo Williams, for that matter -- combined with playcaller Rob Chudzinski's insistence on using read-option plays where the tailback may or may not carry the football, depending on Cam Newton's decision, have both contributed. The Panthers' rushing offense has plummeted from third in the NFL last season to 15th in 2012. Refreshingly, Week 11 is an opportunity to write off Panthers backs entirely in fantasy lineup decisions. The Bucs rank No. 1 against the run and allow a league-low 3.50 yards per carry. ... Newton stands a disappointing 14th in fantasy quarterback scoring through nine games, but he passed for 303 yards with a 69.7 completion rate against the Bucs in Week 1, and Tampa's pass defense is worse now, having lost top CB Aqib Talib (trade) and top pass rusher Adrian Clayborn (ACL). RCB Eric Wright has also been unable to finish recent games due to a painful Achilles' injury. Lofty preseason expectations should've been reset for Newton some weeks ago, but Cam is a mid-range to low-end QB1 in this game. The Buccaneers rank dead last against the pass, and Cam always offers plenty of upside.

The Wright injury and Talib trade have stripped the Bucs of any prayer they may have had to stop Steve Smith. Shake off Smith's slow Week 10 game against Champ Bailey and start him in this picturesque matchup. Smith whipped Tampa for 106 yards on seven receptions in the Week 1 meeting, and this one has bounce-back game written all over it. ... The Bucs have allowed the tenth most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. Finding his groove, Greg Olsen has moved to No. 6 overall in fantasy scoring at his position with a career-best 77-catch, 884-yard, six-touchdown pace. Tampa Bay poses very little pass-rush threat -- Greg Schiano's defense stuffs the run but ranks 27th in sacks -- so Olsen should be freed up to run plenty of pass routes. ... Brandon LaFell has cleared 55 receiving yards once in his last six games. LaFell may have flirted with the breakout season some projected this year had Newton taken a step forward as a passer. Newton has not. LaFell has a great Week 11 matchup, but he's no more than a low-end WR3.

Score Prediction: Panthers 24, Bucs 23

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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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