Evan Silva


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Matchups: No Freebie for Free

Saturday, December 01, 2012

1:00PM ET Games

New England @ Miami

Aaron Hernandez's four targets, two catches, and 36 yards weren't promising on Thanksgiving night, but his usage was. Returning from a five-week layoff, Pro Football Focus charted him with 57-of-70 snaps played (81.4 percent), and Hernandez's movement skills appeared to be nearly all the way back. Now fresh off ten days rest, Hernandez should be at peak form Sunday at Miami. The Dolphins have allowed the sixth most yards in the league to tight ends. Lock in Hernandez as a top-three tight end play. ... Brandon Lloyd ranks 22nd in the NFL in targets, but the Patriots have failed to connect in the vertical passing game all season and his box-score production has fallen well short of expectations for the Pats and fantasy owners alike. While he does have a favorable Week 13 matchup against struggling Dolphins top CB Sean Smith, Lloyd has panned out as no better than a boom-or-bust WR3 option. ... Wes Welker's last six stat lines against the Dolphins -- his former team -- beginning with most recent: 8-160-2, 12-138, 8-70, 10-167, 9-84, 8-120. ... No. 2 fantasy quarterback Tom Brady has been assassin-like with a 14:0 TD-to-INT ratio over his last five games, chipping in a 15th touchdown on a rushing score. The Dolphins have played stout run defense most of the year, but they are vulnerable in the secondary and rank 26th versus the pass.

Julian Edelman's weekly role appears to be game-plan specific. He started in Week 11 against the Colts, only to fall back down the depth chart on Thanksgiving, with Lloyd getting the start. Valued by OC Josh McDaniels mostly for his blocking ability, Edelman played just 16 snaps against the Jets and was targeted three times before leaving with a third-quarter concussion. Despite scoring touchdowns in back-to-back weeks, Edelman is hard to justify as a WR3 or flex option, beyond perhaps return-yardage leagues. He practiced on a limited basis this week and is uncertain to play on Sunday. ... Confirming his two-score Week 10 game was a fluke, Danny Woodhead has touched the football three times on offense since, gaining 19 yards. He should be on fantasy waiver wires. ... Stevan Ridley has reached pay dirt in four straight games and ranks seventh in the NFL in rushing yardage over the past five weeks, despite a Week 9 bye mixed in. Ridley is an every-week fantasy starter, even in tough matchups like this one. Miami ranks seventh in run defense and shut down Marshawn Lynch last week. … Shane Vereen continues to be a better late-season stash than Woodhead as Ridley’s primary backup, but Vereen’s 133 total yards and a touchdown on Thanksgiving night are not a sign of things to come, barring injury to Ridley. The embarrassing Jets didn’t even account for Vereen on his 83-yard score, and ultimately he’s just a change-of-pace back.

Ryan Tannehill broke out of his midyear rookie funk to complete 18-of-26 passes for 253 yards, a touchdown, and an interception in last week's win over Seattle. While Tannehill is not a legitimate fantasy option -- even against New England's No. 29 pass defense -- his improvement bodes well for Miami's chances of generating ball movement going forward. ... Brian Hartline runs most of his pass routes against left corners and will draw Aqib Talib on the majority of Sunday's snaps. While Talib can be prone to coverage busts, those are difficult to count on in fantasy leagues. Hartline is a shaky WR3. ... Davone Bess' 100-plus-yard effort against the Seahawks was just his second in his last 27 games. Bess doesn't offer enough upside or playmaking ability to warrant a stretch-run roster spot in standard leagues. He's a PPR backup. ... The one factor that could spike Bess and/or Hartline's Week 13 stats would be pass-happy comeback mode. Though it isn't a reliable fantasy factor, it’s certainly a possibility. Neither Hartline nor Bess has a favorable matchup, but it's not out of the question that one or both will emerge with a productive game.

Or maybe H-back Charles Clay will be peppered with targets if the Dolphins fall behind big early. Clay played a season-high 61.7 percent of Miami's offensive snaps versus Seattle, posting career highs in catches (6) and yards (84). Entering Week 12, Clay had exceeded 50 yards in 1-of-24 career games. Was last week's production a sign of stats to come? Your guess is as good as mine. The matchup certainly is right for a desperation start. New England has allowed the most fantasy points in the NFL to tight ends. ... The Dolphins' Reggie Bush-Daniel Thomas timeshare will square off Sunday with the Patriots' top-ten run defense. Bush's 87 rushing yards in Week 12 were a season high since Week 2, and Thomas' 60 were his most since Week 3. Bush has reclaimed the lead running back role in Miami, but is a risky flex option. Thomas should be on fantasy benches.

Score Prediction: Patriots 30, Dolphins 13

Minnesota @ Green Bay

Fresh off a Week 11 bye, the Giants shut down the Packers' passing game last Sunday night with a Big Nickel defense comprised of three safeties -- two back deep at all times -- and relentless front-four pressure. If the Vikings copy the approach this week, Aaron Rodgers should at least be ready for it. Unlike New York, Minnesota doesn't have two weeks to prepare for its away date with Green Bay, and is less equipped in the secondary to keep Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, and a returning Greg Jennings contained. Rodgers can dink and dunk with the best of them, and the Vikings' Cover-2 defense will let him. Minnesota has surrendered an 18:6 TD-to-INT ratio and the ninth highest completion rate (64.4) to opposing passers. Expect a bounce-back game from Rodgers. ... In Jennings' return, look for the Packers to use a five-receiver weave with Nelson and Cobb at the top and Jones, Jermichael Finley, and Jennings rounding out the corps. Vikings top CB Antoine Winfield would ordinarily present a difficult draw for Cobb in the slot, but Jennings will see time there too and Green Bay showed against the Giants a willingness to move Cobb outside when matchups dictate it. Cobb has been the Packers' No. 1 offensive option and an every-week starter for the past two months. Don't think he's suddenly slowing down now. ... Rodgers' target distribution since Green Bay's Week 10 bye: Cobb 19, Nelson 9, Finley 8, Alex Green 5, Jones 4, James Starks 2, Donald Driver 1.

Owners need to put Jennings on a "wait-and-see" week against Minnesota. He won't play close to a full dose of snaps and seems unlikely to exceed five targets. Jennings could become a WR3 in the fantasy playoffs, but he's a ways off following in-season groin surgery. ... The book is out on Finley, and he's not a good football player. Finley could be, but he isn't. He may lose snaps with Jennings back and would be a poor fantasy play against a Minnesota defense allowing the tenth fewest receptions and yards to tight ends. ... Jones is also in danger of losing playing time, particularly when Jennings plays the slot and Cobb kicks outside to book end Nelson in three-wide sets. Although making snap decisions based on last week's stats is discouraged in this space, fantasy owners would be smart to take Jones' Week 12 goose egg seriously and sit him this Sunday. ... The Packers are going to have to find a running back in the offseason who can exploit running lanes, because they don't have one right now. If Green runs with shovels on his feet, Starks is working with cement blocks. Avoid Green Bay's backfield against the Vikings.

Feeding Adrian Peterson the football even if they fall behind on the scoreboard will be the Vikings' best -- perhaps only -- way of keeping this game competitive. The league's rushing leader through 11 weeks, Peterson has busted up Green Bay for 429 yards and three touchdowns on 80 carries (5.36 YPC) in these teams' last four meetings. Arguably running at a career-best level, Peterson has averaged six yards per carry or more in five straight games. ... Without Percy Harvin (ankle) playing -- and it certainly doesn't appear he will in Week 13 -- the Vikings' passing game has become a borderline fantasy wasteland. Jerome Simpson (three drops on five Week 12 targets), Michael Jenkins (nicknamed "Molasses Mike" for his lack of separation skills), and raw rookie Jarius Wright are all unreliable standard-league receiver plays. Wright does have ten catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in Harvin's two missed games and is deep leaguers' best bet, but he's about a top-50 option at best. ... Kyle Rudolph has a relatively difficult matchup with a Green Bay defense permitting the fourth fewest fantasy points to tight ends, but he at least figures to receive the bulk of Christian Ponder's pass attempts. Ponder's target distribution in Harvin's two missed games this year: Rudolph 18, Wright 15, Peterson 11, Simpson 9, Jenkins 7, Toby Gerhart 2.

Score Prediction: Packers 28, Vikings 14

Houston @ Tennessee

So much for Arian Foster’s outrageous workload costing him a step. Topping 5.0 YPC for the first time since mid-October and executing twice on red-zone runs, Foster exploited cutback lanes for lengthy jaunts into green grass throughout last Thursday's win over Detroit. Foster now returns from a ten-day rest period after the Thanksgiving game to face Tennessee's No. 27 run defense. There isn't a better fantasy running back bet in the league this week. ... The Texans expect Ben Tate to return from his balky hamstring in Week 13, but coach Gary Kubiak will make Tate earn his No. 2 job back from Justin Forsett. Tate will start out at the bottom of the depth chart. "I’ve got to probably get him going on some special teams," Kubiak said of Tate. "We’ve got to get his play back going. Justin’s done too good a job." Although Forsett was credited with an 81-yard TD against the Lions, the run should have been overturned on replay. Forsett has Jim Schwartz to thank for an ill-timed toss of his red challenge flag, costing Detroit points. Texans tailbacks behind Foster are not Week 13 fantasy options. Tate remains the better stretch-run stash. He will regain the top backup job soon enough.


Friday Update: Titans MLB Colin McCarthy has been ruled out for Week 13 due to a concussion. Tennessee has struggled at linebacker this year aside from SLB Akeem Ayers, and surely will continue to against the Texans.

After a slow start to the season, Andre Johnson is on an absolute tear with a nine-catch, 130-yard average over his last six games. Tennessee ranks 27th against the pass, has surrendered the third most passing touchdowns in football, and allowed Jaguars wideouts Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon to combine for nine catches, 167 yards, and two end-zone trips just last week. Johnson is a top-five WR1 in Week 13. ... Matt Schaub's target distribution since Houston's Week 8 bye: Johnson 53, Owen Daniels 25, Kevin Walter and Garrett Graham 20, Foster 14, James Casey 13. ... Keep in mind Daniels missed Week 10 due to a hip injury. In the Texans' pass-catching corps, Johnson and Daniels are every-week fantasy starters and the others are all waiver-wire material. ... Daniels has an attractive Week 13 matchup versus a Tennessee defense playing musical chairs at safety again. SS Jordan Babineaux was benched last week for the second time in the past month. The Titans have allowed the fifth most receptions and eighth most yards to tight ends. ... Back-to-back shootouts have propped up Schaub's production the past two weeks. When the Texans are playing the kind of football they want to play, however, Schaub is no more than a glorified game manager. Start Schaub if you believe this game will turn into a shootout. (Hint: It probably won't.)

Six starts into his NFL career, Jake Locker is an inconsistent if exciting playmaker with a ways to go. From snap to snap, you don't really know what you'll get. Locker did well to keep the offense moving in the first half of last week's loss to Jacksonville, despite a no-show from Tennessee's run game in the first two quarters. Locker was intercepted twice in the game's final three minutes, however, sealing the Jaguars' victory on ill-advised decisions. Locker's TD-to-INT ratio on the year still stands at a respectable 7:4, and he's averaging 7.3 yards per scramble. He's not a realistic standard fantasy league option yet, but does make for a worthwhile two-QB league play. ... While the impact of QBs coach Dowell Loggains' promotion to Titans offensive coordinator remains to be seen, we can expect some new wrinkles. It would make sense for Loggains to prioritize increased roles for Jared Cook and Kenny Britt. Outgoing playcaller Chris Palmer's attempts to do so proved fruitless, but Cook and Britt are Tennessee's top two passing-game weapons. Facing the Texans' top-six defense, this has the look of a wait-and-see week for fantasy owners considering starting Titans pass catchers. Tennessee will have a more intriguing matchup at Indianapolis in Week 14.


Friday Update: Texans top CB Johnathan Joseph has been ruled out for Week 13 due to a lingering hamstring injury. Houston's pass defense has been swiss cheese without Joseph this season. So upgrade Locker and Britt's fantasy matchups.

Kendall Wright has failed to clear 50 yards in five straight games. He can safely be dropped in 12-team leagues and replaced by a running back handcuff. Wright is unlikely to be an impact fantasy wideout down the stretch. ... Nate Washington is 41st in receiver scoring. Like Wright, he is an unattractive Week 13 option and will likely remain so throughout the fantasy playoffs. ... Chris Johnson broke off Week 12 gains of 31 and 22 yards against the Jags, and was held to 56 yards on his other 21 touches (2.67 average). Considering his electrifying performances before the Titans' Week 11 bye, fantasy owners should keep the faith. The Texans' defense has struggled all season to defend running backs who get into space, and Johnson is that kind of player. Despite a painfully slow start to the year, Johnson still ranks 11th among running backs in fantasy scoring.

Score Prediction: Texans 27, Titans 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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