Evan Silva


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Matchups: Feelin' Lucky

Sunday, November 18, 2012

4:25PM ET Games

San Diego @ Denver

The combined record of Denver's remaining seven opponents is 23-40 (.365). The Broncos have lit up recent box scores, and it's fair to wonder if the best is still to come. "Peyton Manning is getting more acclimated to his weapons," ESPN's Ron Jaworski said this week. "You see guys now being where they're supposed to be. The eye contact and movement. Just those little subtleties that are now starting to come." Manning turned in arguably the premier quarterback performance of 2012 in Denver's Week 6 comeback win over San Diego, marching his team back from a 24-0 halftime deficit on the back of 309 yards, three touchdowns, and 24-of-30 passing (80 percent). Manning is a top-five quarterback play in Week 11. ... Eric Decker shredded Chargers LCB Quentin Jammer for a 6-98-1 line in the Week 6 game and is the No. 11 overall fantasy wide receiver. There's every reason to believe Decker is capable of another big game. ... I still like Demaryius Thomas to pace Denver in Week 11 receiving. The Broncos' X receiver, Thomas gets a more favorable coverage draw against Bolts RCB Antoine Cason. Pro Football Focus grades Jammer as the NFL's No. 33 overall cover corner this year. Cason is 86th among 106 qualifiers.

Fantasy megabust TE Jacob Tamme hit rock bottom with one catch for six yards in Week 10. He played a season-low 21 snaps. Fantasy owners need to send Tamme to the waiver wire. ... Joel Dreessen is more of a blocking than receiving tight end, but at least he gets on the field. He's a low-end TE2. San Diego has permitted the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, so it isn't as if Dreessen or Tamme has a good matchup. ... Slot receiver Brandon Stokley caught a touchdown pass in last week's win over Carolina, but he's averaging 37 yards a game. Let’s aim higher. ... Is Willis McGahee slowing down midway through his age-31 season? After averaging 4.74 yards a pop on his initial 68 rushing attempts, McGahee has slowed to 354 yards on his last 92 (3.85 YPC). Just keep in mind that this matchup should be slightly more favorable than San Diego's No. 2 run defense ranking suggests. Chargers NT Aubrayo Franklin is out with a bone bruise on his knee, and McGahee went for 98 total yards in these teams' Week 6 meeting. Still, McGahee is probably more of a mid-range to low-end RB2 than top-15 running back play.

Ryan Mathews turned in another mediocre fantasy performance (22 touches, 76 scoreless yards) in Week 10, which is what we've come to expect both from Mathews and all running backs facing the Bucs' No. 1 run defense. Forward-thinking fantasy owners look beyond the box score, though. Mathews unseated Ronnie Brown in the two-minute offense, and received four of the five red-zone touches in San Diego's backfield. Mathews is the No. 25 fantasy back in points per game; a low-end RB2/flex. With an increasing role in an offense finally moving the ball, however, Mathews will be difficult to keep out of fantasy lineups, even versus Denver's No. 10 run defense. Keep an eye on Mathews’ stiff neck. It kept him out of Wednesday and Thursday’s practices. ... Rebounding from a slow start, Antonio Gates has 15 receptions and four touchdowns over his last four games. He also touched up this same Broncos defense for a 6-81-2 stat line in Week 6. Denver has allowed the most fantasy points in football to tight ends, including a league-high eight scores. Gates looks like the strongest Week 11 fantasy play on San Diego's roster.


Friday Update: The Chargers got good news Friday when Mathews returned to practice. Although he is listed as questionable, comments from both coach Norv Turner and the running back himself indicate Mathews is on pace to play against the Broncos. Fantasy owners should still secure Jackie Battle as a potential game-day fallback option in case Mathews is a last-minute scratch. The game has a late start, after all. Battle would be the favorite for early-down and red-zone carries if Mathews missed the game. Ronnie Brown would be the passing-down back.

The primary reason for San Diego's Week 6 second-half meltdown was pass protection. A total inability to halt Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil's relentless outside-edge rush. LT Jared Gaither's (groin) absence didn't hinder San Diego's pass game much against Tampa's nonexistent pass rush last week, but it'll almost certainly rear its ugly head again versus a Broncos defense that leads the NFL in sacks. Gaither is listed as doubtful for Week 11, and I'd be awfully hard pressed to trust Philip Rivers as more than a low-end QB2 in this matchup. Rivers has been awful more often than not when undrafted rookie Mike Harris has attempted to "protect" his blindside. ... The Broncos shadowed Malcom Floyd with Champ Bailey for the majority of the Week 6 game. Floyd was held to 60 scoreless yards on five receptions, getting only 3-26 against Champ. Add in the threat of San Diego's passing attack being torpedoed if Denver's pass rushers take over this game, and Floyd isn't more than a back-end WR3 in Week 11. ... Danario Alexander is a better bet than Floyd this week because his matchup is so much more favorable. Alexander (6'5/217) will draw a combo of usual slot corner Chris Harris (5'10/190) and Tony Carter (5'9/175) in coverage. Clearly overtaking Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal for the Chargers' second receiver spot, Alexander can be more than just a one-week wonder. He dropped a 5-134-1 line on the Bucs last week, seeing seven targets and playing 59-of-66 snaps.

Score Prediction: Broncos 27, Chargers 17

Indianapolis @ New England

Andrew Luck is the No. 5 fantasy quarterback over the past five weeks and offers upside as a QB1 streamer against New England's No. 29 pass defense. "Halfway through his rookie season, I already believe (Luck) is in the top 7-8 quarterbacks in this league," NFL Network's Mike Mayock said last week. "He makes every throw. But it's not the physicality that separates him. It's the intangibles. He inhales film." Luck will see on film that the Pats have zero secondary continuity. They've tried five different players at the two safety spots through nine games, and will have a new starting cornerback Sunday when Aqib Talib likely takes over at LCB, pushing rookie Alfonzo Dennard to right corner and Kyle Arrington into the slot. Shredded by vertical and intermediate strikes, the Patriots' defense has allowed a league-high 47 completions of 20-plus yards. That plays directly into the hands of Colts playcaller Bruce Arians, who constantly schemes to push the ball downfield. ... New England's linebackers were exposed mightily by the Bills' offense in Week 10 pass coverage. Pedestrian talents TE Scott Chandler (5-65-1) and slot receiver Donald Jones (6-74-1) could be seen on tape running wide open down the seam. With Coby Fleener (shoulder) sidelined at least one more game, Dwayne Allen warrants legitimate TE1 consideration in such a fine Week 11 matchup. The Patriots allow the third most fantasy points in the league to tight ends.

Talib will eventually help New England's reeling back end, but his addition is not an immediate concern for Reggie Wayne. Suspended since October 13, Talib hasn't so much as practiced in over a month and is learning Bill Belichick's complex defense on the fly. In Talib's debut, he'll be prone to a busted coverage or two. Start Wayne as a WR1 in this potential shootout. ... Donnie Avery and rookie T.Y. Hilton are both playing well enough to be in the WR3 discussion. This game could turn pass-happy fast, and Hilton and Avery should both get open. Avery has 21 targets over the past three games. Hilton has 18. ... New England's No. 9 run defense sprung leaks in last week's win over Buffalo, as Chan Gailey effectively schemed C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson into space. Spiller and Jackson combined for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries (6.0 YPC). Unfortunately, neither of the Colts' timeshare backs possesses the talent or run-friendly scheme the Bills backs enjoy. Aside from perhaps Luck's legs, the ground game is probably the least likely way the Colts will move the ball offensively in this game. Vick Ballard is just a flex option. Belichick's defenses have held Donald Brown to 123 yards on 35 carries (3.51 YPC) in their three career meetings. With an unreliable knee and scaled-back role, Brown isn't much of a Week 11 fantasy option.

With Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney finally healthy, Indy's defensive front seven will be at full strength for Sunday's clash with the Pats. Tom Brady can counteract edge rushers with a quick-hitting passing attack, however, and the Colts are injury riddled in the secondary. LCB Jerraud Powers (toe) hit injured reserve Monday, and RCB Vontae Davis (knee) remains out indefinitely. It's a group that can be picked on. ... Wes Welker is in the midst of a three-game scoring drought, but he's getting close. A would-be 34-yard touchdown pass rocketed through Welker's hands in the first quarter against Buffalo, and he continues to get open at will. Welker remains an every-week starter. ... Rob Gronkowski scored his fifth touchdown in the last three games versus the Bills and also drew a pass interference penalty to help set up Stevan Ridley's one-yard, first-quarter score. The Colts have defended tight ends stingily this year, but matchups don't matter for Gronk. On pace for 82 catches, 1,087 yards, and 15 TDs, he's the No. 1 overall fantasy tight end. ... Falling painfully short of preseason expectations, Brandon Lloyd is 40th in fantasy receiver scoring, settling in as just a WR3 option. The Patriots haven't stopped trying to get Lloyd the football, though. He drew a 38-yard pass interference flag on Bills RCB Stephon Gilmore in Week 10, setting up Gronkowski's late first-half touchdown. Lloyd secured 5-of-6 targets for 45 yards, with the only other misfire coming on an end-zone slant route that was batted away. Lloyd has a great Week 11 matchup in a likely high-scoring affair. Sit him against the Colts at your own risk.

I watched Pats-Bills on Tuesday of this week. Although Danny Woodhead finished with just five touches, he was a mismatch for Buffalo's linebackers in the nickel package and picked up 61 yards with two touchdowns. Woodhead's lone carry -- a 15-yard scoring run in the second quarter, came on a perfectly blocked play right off LG Logan Mankins' backside. Woodhead deserves credit for a nice game, but he's not going to be a consistent fantasy scorer as a passing-down specialist averaging seven touches over his past six games. He's a weak flex option. ... Ridley repeatedly broke off chunk-yardage runs against Buffalo and has caught fire again with 223 yards and two touchdowns on his last 35 carries (6.37 YPC). The Colts rank 22nd against the run and permit the fourth highest yards-per-carry average (4.69) in football. Keep rolling with Ridley as an RB1. ... Shane Vereen isn't a fantasy option, but he's a better handcuff for Ridley than Woodhead. Woodhead is entrenched as a passing-down back. Vereen would step in on early downs if Ridley got hurt. ... We should have a good read on Aaron Hernandez's (ankle) Week 11 availability by Sunday morning. He's a shoo-in fantasy starter if he plays. If he doesn't, avoid Visanthe Shiancoe and Daniel Fells. Shiancoe played eight snaps last week and was not targeted. Fells was a healthy scratch.


Friday Update: NFL Network's Albert Breer reported Friday that Hernandez will not play against the Colts. The Patriots may be targeting Thanksgiving night against the Jets for Hernandez's return. If you're looking for a tight end fallback option, Dwayne Allen in this same game has an awfully attractive matchup, as explained above.

Score Prediction: Patriots 34, Colts 27

Sunday Night Football

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

Fantasy owners should brace themselves for Ben Roethlisberger (shoulder, rib) to miss significant time. ESPN's Bob Holtzman suggested on SportsCenter Wednesday that Big Ben might not return for six weeks. The impact on Pittsburgh's offense threatens to be dramatic. "So many of the Steelers' points come from Ben playing beyond the Xs and Os," Trent Dilfer stated this week. "Generating offense on his own. Without him, I think they're gonna have a very hard time scoring points." Todd Haley will have to remake his offense on the fly. Byron Leftwich's cement feet and rotary-phone delivery will force Pittsburgh to scrap its completion-friendly, pass-first offense, likely in favor of a run-based approach that takes intermittent deep shots off play action. A first-half stud like Heath Miller may be kept in to block more. Emmanuel Sanders -- and Antonio Brown, when he comes back -- are volume-dependent receivers who will see reduced volume. The Steelers will try to win games in spite of their quarterback, leaning on their defense and run game. It's not a recipe for fantasy success. ... Although his consistency is sure to be affected, Mike Wallace may be the one Steelers pass catcher capable of overcoming the almost certain impending change in offensive philosophy. Leftwich still has a bazooka arm, and his strength is challenging downfield. Wallace also has a favorable Week 11 matchup against burnable Ravens outside corners Cary Williams and Chykie Brown. Wallace's fantasy owners need to hope for a deep bomb or two.

A run-based attack like the one Haley ran in Kansas City won't necessarily turn Jonathan Dwyer, Isaac Redman, or Rashard Mendenhall into a fantasy star. We don't even know which Steelers back will get the carries. "At this stage they seem to be more comfortable using Dwyer and Redman," ESPN's John Clayton suggested this week. "If they have Mendenhall, it's only going to be for a cameo role." We'll see. Mendenhall has resumed practicing fully, and Redman told the media this week that he expects Mendenhall to start at Baltimore. The matchup is right against the Ravens' No. 26 run defense, but none of the three backs is assured of more than 12-15 touches. In Week 11, invest in this running back corps at your own peril. ... Sanders is an unreliable WR3 gamble for the reasons outlined above, but it's worth noting that he was Leftwich's favorite receiver immediately after Roethlisberger exited last Monday night's win over Kansas City in the third quarter. Leftwich's target distribution from Week 10: Sanders 5, Wallace 3, FB Will Johnson 2, Dwyer, Redman, and Jerricho Cotchery 1. For Sanders, only time can tell whether that means anything. Leftwich probably felt comfortable throwing to him because they've spent so much time together on the second team. Sanders is a slot receiver with ones, but a starter with the twos.

Joe Flacco shredded a bad Raiders defense in Week 10, using his tight ends down the seam in the first half and vertical strikes to Torrey Smith and Jacoby Jones in the final two quarters. It was a clinic. Flacco will face an entirely different animal in Week 11, taking on a Steelers team that both ranks No. 1 in total defense and No. 1 against the pass. Flacco is a matchup-based QB1 streamer only at this point, and this is an unfavorable matchup. Bench Flacco on Sunday night. ... Passing success will be difficult for Baltimore's offense to achieve in this game, but the deep middle of Pittsburgh's defense may be vulnerable. SS Troy Polamalu (calf) is out yet again, and FS Ryan Clark is coming off his second concussion in the past three weeks. Smith is Flacco's' deep ball specialist, and recorded a 5-71-1 line in Baltimore's visit to Pittsburgh in November of 2011, the last time these two clubs met. Smith is the No. 13 overall fantasy wide receiver and a quality WR2 play in this game. He also plays on each side of the field enough to avoid RCB Ike Taylor's coverage on a substantial number of plays. ... Anquan Boldin's production has slowed to a halt the past three weeks, which shouldn't surprise anyone because he's 32 years old and has done the same thing in each of the last two years. He's a bottom-barrel WR3 option for Week 11.

If there has been a shaky aspect of Pittsburgh's 2012 defense, it's the way they have played the run. Darren McFadden (18-113-1), Jamaal Charles (23-100-1), and Chris Johnson (19-91) have all struggled at certain points this season, but they've all ran effectively on the Steelers. In Ray Rice's two 2011 meetings with Pittsburgh, he racked up 235 all-purpose yards and three scores. Fantasy owners shouldn't be afraid to to start Rice, despite a difficult matchup on paper. He's the No. 4 overall fantasy back and an every-week RB1. ... Dennis Pitta was a big part of Baltimore's Week 10 passing onslaught against Oakland, securing 5-of-5 balls for 67 yards and a touchdown. While the potential absence of both Steelers safeties increases Pitta's Week 11 attractiveness, the sudden production surge is a bit difficult to trust long term because it all came in the first half and seemed specific to that week's game plan. Pitta doesn't play on running downs and was not targeted in the final two quarters. Pitta remains a desperation option in fantasy leagues.

Score Prediction: Ravens 20, Steelers 17

Monday Night Football

Chicago @ San Francisco

This week's Monday nighter projects to be long on defense and short on points. Both quarterback starters are coming off Week 10 concussions, although San Francisco's should be available for the game. Still, the over-under is 38.5 -- tied with Jets-Rams for lowest of Week 11 -- and both clubs field top-five defenses. For fantasy lineup decisions, this is a game to avoid where possible. ... The Bears have defended the run well for most of the season, but they sprang leaks the past two weeks. Titans and Texans backs racked up 286 yards and a touchdown on 53 carries (5.40 YPC) against Chicago in Weeks 9-10, shining some light on Frank Gore's matchup. It also can't be understated how dominant the Niners' offensive line has been as a run-blocking unit this season. The No. 8 fantasy back to this point, Gore should be locked into lineups. ... If there were ever a matchup to get Vernon Davis off the schneid, this is it. Chicago's defense has permitted the fifth most receptions in the NFL to tight ends, often allowing them to simply run uncovered over the middle. A major coverage liability at age 34, MLB Brian Urlacher can't run anymore on bad knees.

49ers coach Jim Harbaugh would be smart to dial up frequent three-receiver sets Monday night, spreading out the Bears' secondary and forcing slot CB Kelvin Hayden to match up with Michael Crabtree. Outside receivers Randy Moss and Mario Manningham will struggle to get open against LCB Charles Tillman and RCB Tim Jennings, but Crabtree is capable of eating up Hayden down the seam. Crabtree has a plus matchup. ... Alex Smith received early-week medical clearance, and there is some debate about whether he suffered a Week 10 concussion at all. Regardless, Smith would be an incredibly poor quarterback play against the Bears' top-ten pass defense. Chicago leads the NFL in interceptions, ranks sixth in sacks, and first in quarterback rating allowed. Don't be surprised if Smith doesn't drop back to pass more than 20 times in this game.

Jay Cutler's concussion will indeed sideline him for Week 11, leaving the Bears' quarterback reins to Jason Campbell. With little to no mobility and windmill arm action, Campbell is nearly as poor a fit behind Chicago's sieve-like offensive line as Byron Leftwich is for Todd Haley's quick-pass offense in Pittsburgh. Leftwich at least benefits this week from facing a sub-par Ravens defense. Campbell must deal with the 49ers, who rank fifth against the pass, third in total defense, and second in sacks. Campbell would be a poor two-quarterback league play in this matchup. ... Although San Francisco plays run-tough defense, Chicago will be left with little choice but to hitch its wagon to Matt Forte's legs. Even if it means jackhammering Forte into a brick wall. The Bears will have to hope 49ers Week 10 opponent St. Louis put a crack in that wall with 159 rushing yards and a touchdown on 36 rushing attempts by Steven Jackson and rookie Daryl Richardson last Sunday.

Scoreless since Week 3 and averaging six touches for 32 yards over his last five games, Michael Bush has been reduced to handcuff or late-season stash only. He's little threat to Forte's workload and completely off the fantasy radar as a standalone option. ... Replacing Cutler, Campbell came off the bench to attempt 19 passes against the Texans last week. His target distribution: Brandon Marshall 9, Forte and Matt Spaeth 3, Kellen Davis 2, Earl Bennett and Kris Adams 1, Devin Hester 0. ... So Campbell at least knows where to go with the football. He hooked up with Marshall six times for 86 yards in one half of work against Houston, most notably connecting on a 45-yard bomb in Texans top CB Johnathan Joseph's coverage. No other Bears passing-game member is worth Week 11 fantasy consideration, but Marshall looks like the one player capable of overcoming the downgrade from Cutler to Campbell. ... Returning from his fractured hand, Alshon Jeffery resumed practicing fully on Friday and is believed to have a chance to play Monday night, after missing the Bears' last four games. Although not a standalone fantasy option, Jeffery could add another dimension to Chicago's passing attack when Cutler returns. Jeffery flashed big-play ability early in the season, averaging over 13 yards per reception with two touchdowns in five games.

Score Prediction: 49ers 17, Bears 14

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

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