Evan Silva


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Matchups: Feelin' Lucky

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cleveland @ Dallas

Turnover free and completing 72.1 percent of his throws over the past two weeks, Tony Romo is playing efficient football entering a Week 11 date with Cleveland's No. 22 pass defense. Romo's schedule sets up for a potential stretch-run roll. Five of Dallas' final seven games are against pass defenses ranked 18th or worse, with Pittsburgh (Week 15) and Philadelphia (Week 13) as the two outliers. And the Eagles are far more burnable in the back end than their No. 12 ranking suggests. Five of Romo's next six games are indoors at Cowboys Stadium. With all of his weapons healthy, consider Romo a quality QB1 streamer going forward. ... The Cowboys surprisingly opted against attacking Nnamdi Asomugha in Week 10 -- targeting him just once -- but Dez Bryant still came away with 87 yards and a touchdown. It will be interesting to see whether the Browns stick top CB Joe Haden on Bryant or Miles Austin this week. Haden's natural position is left corner, which is the side of the field against which Austin runs the majority of his routes. Austin also has more yards than Dez over the past month. If Haden doesn't shadow him, Bryant will draw 33-year-old RCB Sheldon Brown in coverage. Fantasy owners' best approach is to simply start both. Bryant is the No. 11 fantasy wideout over the last five weeks. Austin is No. 17. Haden missed practice time with a painful oblique injury this week, so his receiver assignment may not have an impact anyway.


Friday Update: Haden missed Friday's practice and is listed as questionable on the injury report. Coach Pat Shurmur confirmed Haden will make the team flight to Dallas, but his status won't be determined until just before game time. Even if Haden starts, he may not play at as high a level as he's capable due to the injury. Haden struggled mightily trying to play hurt in the second half of last season.

Kevin Ogletree's playing time continues to dwindle due to on-field errors. He's gone catch-less in three of his last five games. Ogletree wasn't even targeted in Week 10 and can be dropped in all leagues. ... Romo's target distribution since Dallas' Week 5 bye: Jason Witten 55, Austin 43, Bryant 38, Felix Jones 18, Ogletree 17. ... Witten's total is skewed a bit by his 22-target Week 8 game, but there's clearly been an increased emphasis on getting him the ball after a slow start. While the Browns have defended tight ends well (30th in fantasy points allowed), Witten remains a mid-range TE1 with at least six receptions in six consecutive games. ... Despite Felix Jones' recent struggles, the Cowboys made a Week 10 commitment to the running game and executed in a 38-23 thrashing of Philadelphia. Running the football eight times on their opening, 13-play touchdown drive, Dallas used Jones as the lead back and Lance Dunbar as an explosive change of pace. Coming away with 93 yards and a touchdown on 19 touches, Jones ran with increased confidence and burst, and is back in the flex-play mix against Cleveland's No. 27 run defense. Jones has not been a favorite in this space previously, but credit where it's due: Felix has put together 97 yards on his last 20 carries (4.85 YPC), and his skill level has never been an issue.

The Cowboys' No. 13 run defense ranking looks formidable on paper, but they're a group to target in stretch-run fantasy lineup decisions. Run-stopping LE Kenyon Coleman tore his triceps last week, joining ILB Sean Lee as core front-seven defenders on injured reserve. Overcoming his knee and rib injuries after a Week 10 bye, Trent Richardson's physicality, lateral moves, and acceleration should all be in optimal form. A legit RB1, Richardson will give Doug Martin a run for his money as top rookie back in the final seven games. ... The Browns must lean on Richardson to stay competitive. Seventh against the pass and allowing just one passing score per game, Rob Ryan's defense will make life difficult on rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden. After flashing some early-season promise, Weeden has come back to Earth, completing just 32 of his last 68 throws (47.1 percent) for 313 yards (4.60 YPA) and a 0:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Until Weeden picks it back up, Browns pass catchers are going to be difficult to trust in fantasy. ... Weeden will surely take shots downfield to Josh Gordon on Sunday -- he always does -- but the supplemental rookie receiver seems to have topped out as a boom-or-bust WR3 gamble, due in large part to his limited route tree. Gordon rarely gets the ball in the short and intermediate sections. He hasn't caught more than three passes in any game this year. ... Greg Little is the only other Cleveland skill-position player worth fantasy consideration, and he offers scant upside. Little has cleared 60 receiving yards in just 1-of-9 games this season, and this will be his toughest matchup to date.

Score Prediction: Cowboys 24, Browns 16

Philadelphia @ Washington

Nick Foles will likely be Philly's starting quarterback for the remainder of the season, with Michael Vick nursing a "significant" concussion. "I think the one thing that stands out about Foles, which is a real positive, is he's got a pretty good sense of timing and anticipation," NFL Films' Greg Cosell opined this week. "And he's also got some movement ability within the pocket. He actually has much better pocket movement than Vick." Foles' ability to slide around and away from oncoming rushers would come in awfully handy behind the Eagles' turnstile O-Line. He's a lock to have open receivers against a miserable Redskins secondary on Sunday, and offers some upside as a two-QB league play. ... Although the notion that tight ends are rookie quarterbacks' "security blankets" is largely mythical, Brent Celek is an interesting Week 11 fantasy option. Slot receiver Jason Avant's (hamstring) will free up underneath targets for Celek, and the Skins have permitted the most catches and yards to tight ends. ... Washington ranks 30th in pass defense and has allowed an NFL-high 20 passing touchdowns through nine games. The installation of a rookie quarterback seemingly makes Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson riskier plays, but they both have terrific Week 11 matchups and offer too much upside to leave on the bench in three-receiver leagues.

Coach Andy Reid's offensive philosophy has and will continue to be passing based. But he's also been a believer in bringing young QBs slowly along. When Donovan McNabb was a rookie, Reid had him literally alternate with veteran journeyman Doug Pederson, often trading off series. At least initially, I'd look for Philadelphia to lean heavily on LeSean McCoy and rookie change-up back Bryce Brown. Washington has been tagged by Steelers, Giants, Vikings, and Panthers backs for 403 yards and four touchdowns on 87 carries (4.63 YPC) over its last four games. So this is a running-friendly matchup and great opportunity to feature a rushing attack that can be as efficient on a per-touch basis as any. McCoy is a locked-in top-five running back play in Week 11. Offering as much upside as any stretch-run "stash,” Brown should be owned in all leagues. ... Riley Cooper will replace Avant as the Eagles' third receiver against the Redskins. He came off the bench to catch two balls for 24 yards and a touchdown in Week 10, and has some red-zone chops. Cooper would still need a D-Jax or Maclin injury to be a standard-league option.

Philly opened the year playing run-tough defense. The unit has taken a step back. New Orleans and Dallas' left-for-dead run games have peeled off 243 yards and a score on 48 carries (5.06 YPC) against the Eagles the past two weeks. The Redskins rank second in the NFL in rushing offense, and this is a favorable matchup for Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III. Both rookies slumped a bit before Washington's Week 10 bye. ... Pierre Garcon will apparently attempt to play through the torn plantar plate in his right second toe, a painful injury that has sidelined Garcon since early October. There is no telling how many snaps Garcon will play, or whether he'll be effective. His return will also cut into the playing time and/or targets of Josh Morgan, Leonard Hankerson, Santana Moss, and Aldrick Robinson, essentially rendering the Washington receiver corps hands-off for Week 11 fantasy lineup decisions. There's just no clarity in terms of roles. The Redskins rank third-to-last in pass attempts in the first place. So there are a ton of mouths to feed with scant volume to be spread around. ... Logan Paulsen has been Washington's every-down tight end since Fred Davis tore his Achilles' in Week 7. With the Redskins now returning from an open date, it will be (slightly) interesting to see whether Chris Cooley has been made a bigger part of the offense. Paulsen can block, but offers very little in the passing game.

Score Prediction: Redskins 27, Eagles 20

NY Jets @ St. Louis

"He has been wildly inaccurate," ESPN's Ron Jaworski observed of Mark Sanchez this week. "I am concerned about him right now." Sanchez has reached the point that he's at risk of in-game benching, regardless of what Rex Ryan says in weekly press conferences. It's time for the Jets to turn to Tim Tebow. In Sanchez's last 16 starts, he's posted a 6.04 yards-per-attempt average and 25:25 TD-to-turnover ratio with a 6-10 record. In Tebow's 16 career starts, his YPA stands at 7.10 with 26 touchdowns and 15 turnovers. Tebow has gone 9-7. And those numbers fail to account for Tebow's impact as a runner. Sanchez is over halfway through his fourth NFL season, and he's not getting any better. He is getting worse. Tebow isn't a long-term solution, either, but he is the Jets' best option at this moment in time. Only stubbornness is keeping him out of the starting lineup. ... St. Louis is playing top-13 pass defense and gets back rookie RCB Janoris Jenkins from disciplinary suspension this week. This game's real mismatch will occur between Rams LE Chris Long and Jets RT Austin Howard. Proving himself not remotely the answer in the post-Wayne Hunter era, Howard ranks 63rd among 70 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' offensive tackle pass-blocking rankings. Howie's son is PFF's No. 4 overall 4-3 pass-rushing end. Long should eat Howard alive.

The Jets have been outscored 62-7 with no touchdowns produced by the offense in two previous NFC West matchups this year. More tough sledding is likely at the Edward Jones Dome. A slot and Z receiver, Jeremy Kerley will have his hands full with Rams slot CB Cortland Finnegan and LCB Bradley Fletcher. Fletcher has been one of the NFL's most underrated defenders in 2012. ... St. Louis ranks 18th against the run and has surrendered ten rushing touchdowns through nine games. Shonn Greene is the worst starting running back in football, but always a safe bet for 15-plus carries and this is a favorable matchup. He's worth a look as a low-upside flex play. ... Dustin Keller is coming off an abysmal game (multiple penalties, dropped pass, 47 yards on five targets), but he’s the most attractive Week 11 fantasy option among Jets skill-position players. St. Louis has allowed the ninth most receptions and 12th most yards to tight ends. Keller has 23 targets over his last three games, and his foot speed can give the Rams' safeties problems down the seam. ... Stephen Hill started last week's loss to the Seahawks, but was a non-factor. He saw two targets and failed to secure either. Hill has gone catch-less in three of his seven appearances this year.

Danny Amendola has lasted all four quarters in five games this season. He's seen no fewer than nine targets in all of them, averaging 8.4 receptions for 90.6 yards per game. Amendola is such a featured part of new Rams playcaller Brian Schottenheimer's offense that he's reached every-week WR3 status in standard leagues. He was already a WR2 in PPR. New York uses easy-to-burn Ellis Lankster at slot corner in nickel packages, and Amendola can burn him up. Jets top CB Antonio Cromartie is a perimeter cover guy, so I don't think we'll see him shadow Amendola in this game. ... The rest of St. Louis' pass catchers are either bench or waiver-wire fodder. Chris Givens was suspended in Week 10 for skipping practice, and his offensive role is unclear with Amendola healthy. He was starting in Amendola's place. Givens should theoretically be the third receiver, playing outside opposite Brandon Gibson in three-wide sets, but there are no guarantees under a head coach in Jeff Fisher who's running a tight ship. Givens isn't a fantasy option until we see him reestablish a role and put something in the box score. ... Because Amendola is such a target hog, his return also affects Gibson's production. Gibson's average stat line in Amendola's five healthy games is 3-40 on five targets. His statistical ceiling is too low for fantasy football consideration.

Sam Bradford turned in one of the best games of his career in last week's tie at San Francisco. He'll now face the Jets' No. 6 pass defense. Bradford has been too up and down to trust beyond two-QB leagues, but he certainly seems to be trending in the right direction. ... Steven Jackson will be the premier fantasy play on either side in this game, facing a Jets defense that ranks 30th versus the run and has permitted the fourth most rushing scores in the league. It's been noted in this space all year that Jackson is running much better than his stats suggest, and that couldn't have been more evident last week. Jackson jackhammered the Niners' top-seven run defense for 127 total yards and a touchdown, ripping off chain-moving run after chain-moving run. The Jets are coming off a road game in which Seattle rammed 174 rushing yards and 43 rushing attempts down their throat. They may be a bit worn out. Start Jackson as a strong RB2. ... I know it's been suggested that S-Jax might dominate St. Louis' backfield over Daryl Richardson with the trade deadline having passed, but I wouldn't be so sure. Richardson is a critical piece of the Rams' offense as an in-space back who exploits the defensive edges with blazing speed. Richardson received eight touches in Week 10, and has 223 yards on his last 33 carries (6.76 YPC). He's just a change-of-pace runner, but one of the better ones in the league. Richardson is not going away.

Score Prediction: Rams 23, Jets 17

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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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