Thursday Night Football
Denver @ Oakland
Raiders-Broncos isn't just a mismatch because Denver is 9-3 and Oakland is 3-9. The Broncos' offense excels in areas the Raiders defend particularly poorly, and Denver's dynamic, quick-twitch front seven is likely to overwhelm Oakland's unathletic offensive line. NFL games shock us every week -- Thursday nighters have been especially unpredictable -- but on paper this is a game the Broncos ought to control from start to finish. ... Knowshon Moreno took over for injured Willis McGahee as Denver's feature back two weeks ago. He's averaged 24 touches in two games since, playing 85 percent of the offensive snaps. Moreno's production has been mediocre with a 3.85 YPC average and no TDs, but the workload combined with Thursday night's matchup vaults Moreno into high-end flex discussion. In fantasy leagues, he'll be difficult to bench against an Oakland defense that ranks 28th versus the run and is four days removed from being peppered by 30 Browns rushing attempts. ... Ronnie Hillman will be active Thursday as Moreno's change-of-pace back, but his role has diminished since McGahee went down. The quick-footed rookie is no more than an RB5 late-season stash. ... Onetime third-down back Lance Ball has been weeded out of Denver's offense. He had two carries in last week's win over Tampa Bay, losing two yards.
Peyton Manning's target distribution over the past month: Demaryius Thomas 38, Jacob Tamme 29, Eric Decker 19, Brandon Stokley 17, Joel Dreessen 14, Moreno 9. ... Thomas has passed Decker to be Manning's top pass-game option and ranks No. 4 overall in fantasy receiver scoring. Lining up primarily against right corners, Thomas also has the most favorable Week 14 matchup of Denver's receivers. Decker will take on LCB Michael Huff, whose conversion from safety has been a quiet success. Huff is the Raiders' best cover man. .... Oakland defends the run poorly, but pass defense is its true Achilles' heel. Putting it in a nutshell, the Raiders benched RCB Ronald Bartell in Week 13 after their alleged No. 1 corner got smoked by Browns rookie Josh Gordon for a 44-yard touchdown. Bartell was replaced by special teamer Phillip Adams, and Adams was promptly concussed. Bartell figures rejoin the starting lineup Thursday night, squaring off with Thomas. ... Is Tamme's role increasing? Primarily due to Stokley's (wrist, hip) absence, it did in last week's win over the Bucs. Replacing Stokley in the slot on all passing downs, Tamme played 74 percent of Denver's offensive snaps -- his most since Week 1 -- and led the Broncos with 13 targets, securing nine for 89 yards. Tamme is hardly trustworthy in the first round of the fantasy playoffs, but desperate owners could do worse, especially if Stokley is declared inactive. The Raiders have allowed the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends. ... Manning is a no-brainer top-five QB1. Oakland's No. 25 pass defense has allowed the second most passing touchdowns in football, and consistently allows opposing receivers to run uncovered throughout its secondary.
Thursday Evening Update: A game-time decision leading up to Thursday's game, Stokley was announced as active for the contest and will resume slot duties at Oakland. Stokley's return to the lineup renders Tamme a considerably less attractive Week 14 fantasy option.
Raiders running backs are best left avoided in Week 14 fantasy lineup decisions. With Marcel Reece battling hamstring and quadriceps injuries, Reece, Darren McFadden, and Mike Goodson are all candidates for touches in a matchup with Denver's No. 7 run defense, a unit allowing an AFC-low 3.58 yards-per-carry average. The Broncos shut down Doug Martin (18-56-0) last week, as well as McFadden (13-34-0) in these teams' Week 4 meeting. Starting any Oakland rusher is a likely recipe for fantasy failure. ... There aren't many Raiders skill-position players worth locking in with confidence against Denver, but Brandon Myers looks like one. Fifth in fantasy tight end scoring on the season, Myers would be an obvious beneficiary if Oakland fell into pass-heavy comeback mode. The Broncos also surrender the second most fantasy points to tight ends. "He really understands what we’re trying to do as an offense," Carson Palmer explained of Myers this week. "He understands how to get open. He understands defenses. Naturally. You don't teach that."
Held to four receptions for 60 yards in his last 12 quarters, Denarius Moore was benched for poor performance in last week's loss to Cleveland. Undrafted rookie backup Rod Streater capitalized for 96 yards and a touchdown on three grabs. An unreliable role, shortage of recent production, and Broncos top CB Champ Bailey's probable shadow coverage combine to make Moore an unattractive Week 14 fantasy play. Bailey held Vincent Jackson to 55 scoreless yards on three catches last week. ... Darrius Heyward-Bey has been the third pass option in Oakland's offense this season, taking a step back from last year's 64-975-4 statistical finish. Fantasy playoff owners should be able to do better in WR3 slots. ... Palmer has intermittently salvaged productive fantasy efforts due to comeback mode this season, but his slow-footed offensive line will struggle to block Defensive Player of the Year candidate Von Miller & Co., who will dial up the pass rush if they grab an early lead. Palmer is a two-quarterback league starter and nothing more Thursday night. In the Raiders and Broncos' Week 4 matchup, Palmer completed 19-of-34 throws for 202 yards, no touchdowns, and no interceptions. He absorbed three sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Expect a lot more where that came from in the rematch.
Score Prediction: Broncos 28, Raiders 10
Start or Sit: Thursday Night
Kay Adams (@heykayadams) and Matt Stroup (@mattstroup) look at whether Darren McFadden is worth starting in his return, should you have faith in Denarius Moore, can you expect better production from Eric Decker and much more as they preview Broncos - Raiders.
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