Evan Silva

Matchups

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Matchups: No-Go for Romo?

Saturday, December 08, 2012



4:25PM ET Games

Arizona @ Seattle

Russell Wilson is on pace for a 26:11 TD-to-INT ratio this year. Only ten current qualifying starting quarterbacks have a better completion rate than Wilson's 63.4, and his 7.39 yards-per-attempt average is superior to more ballyhooed rookie Andrew Luck's. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his rookie-year game, however, has been Wilson's ability to elevate the performance of his teammates. Golden Tate is on pace for a career-best year. So is Marshawn Lynch. Sidney Rice was left for dead in some circles entering the year, but he's been rejuvenated as the No. 21 overall fantasy receiver. This week's popular notion that Wilson is a QB1 candidate would be too bold for my taste against Arizona's No. 3 pass defense, but he's certainly settled in as one of the better QB2s going. He's an every-week starter in two-quarterback leagues. ... Rice can expect to be shadowed by Cards top CB Patrick Peterson Sunday in a difficult matchup that should render Rice more WR3 than the WR2 he's produced like. This game projects as low scoring, and I'd prefer to roll with someone like Kenny Britt, T.Y. Hilton, or Antonio Brown in this particular week.

Wilson's target distribution since Seattle's Week 11 bye: Rice 12, Tate 11, Zach Miller and Doug Baldwin 9, Marshawn Lynch 6. ... The low two-game target counts across the board are a reminder that the Seahawks throw the ball less frequently than any NFL team. On a weekly basis, relying on Seattle pass catchers can be risky business because there just isn't any volume. ... Tate has playmaking ability and a favorable matchup if Peterson sticks to Rice, but the fact that his week-to-week ceiling is about seven targets prevents Tate from realizing stable WR3 value. ... As is usually the case, the most likely means of Seattle generating offense in this game will be on the ground. Arizona ranks 24th against the run, and Lynch is the No. 6 overall fantasy running back. So get your Skittles ready.

Beanie Wells has managed 59 yards on his last 30 carries (1.97 YPC). He's looked as sluggish on the field as the stats suggest, and Wells needs to be on fantasy benches versus Seattle's top-12 run defense. ... Can the return of John Skelton spark Larry Fitzgerald? In Skelton's five starts this year, Fitz has averaged four catches for 46 yards with one touchdown. It's better production than Fitzgerald had with Ryan Lindley, at least. Seahawks RCB Brandon Browner's suspension makes Fitzgerald more interesting. If LCB Richard Sherman isn't employed in shadow coverage, Fitz will square off with Walter Thurmond III on plenty of Sunday's snaps. He's back on the WR3 radar. ... It's safe to write off Andre Roberts, Rob Housler, Michael Floyd, and Early Doucet for the remainder of fantasy season. They'll be more likely to let you down than help from here on out.

Score Prediction: Seahawks 23, Cardinals 10

New Orleans @ NY Giants

As you might expect, Saints-Giants has the highest over-under of Week 14 at 53 points. Ordinarily "borderline" fantasy starters like Martellus Bennett and Lance Moore should be upgraded on this week's cheatsheets, with your studs already locked in. ... Jimmy Graham's production sagged in Week 13 (4-59) because he spent much of the Thursday nighter chipping defensive ends due to blocking specialist TE David Thomas' absence. Thomas (knee) returned to full practices this week, which will free up Graham to run clean routes. The Giants have allowed the sixth most receptions and eighth most yards to tight ends. Expect a bounce-back game from Graham. ... Drew Brees was intercepted a career-high five times in last week's loss to Atlanta. Brees has thrown three or more interceptions on six occasions over the past five seasons. His combined stats in games coming off the three-plus-pick efforts are 154-of-212 (72.6 percent) for 1,697 yards (8.00 YPC), and a 15:4 TD-to-INT ratio. The Giants' talented defensive line is capable of causing New Orleans' passing offense problems, but their secondary is prone to blown coverages enough that Brees is far more likely to rebound from last week's clunker rather than play poorly again. Brees is the No. 4 fantasy quarterback, and New York ranks 22nd against the pass. Trot him out.

Marques Colston is on pace for 82 catches, 1,104 yards, and 11 touchdowns in what projects as the second best fantasy season of his seven-year career. He's a borderline WR1 in this possible shootout. ... Lance Moore's inconsistency makes him a difficult weekly projection, but he's cleared 90 yards or found pay dirt in three of his last four games and is paying off as a WR3 more often than not. ... Darren Sproles hasn't carried the football since he returned from his fractured hand two games ago. Sproles hasn't so much as gained a rushing yard since Week 7. He's staying on the weekly flex radar in PPR leagues with receiving value, but Sproles is no longer an appealing standard-league play. ... The Giants are vulnerable in run defense, ranking 21st in that category and allowing a generous 4.64 yards per carry. Unfortunately, neither Mark Ingram nor Chris Ivory has stepped forward as a reliable standard-scoring fantasy option. Ingram's carry total has dropped in three consecutive weeks, while Ivory has received double-digit rushing attempts just once all year. With bye weeks out of the way, Ingram and Ivory are no more than bench depth. ... Rounding out the Saints' logjam, four-man backfield, Pierre Thomas' week-to-week workloads have been totally unpredictable. Like Ivory and Ingram, Thomas is not worth a Week 14 fantasy start.

Keep an eye on Hakeem Nicks (knee) into Sunday morning, but most signs as this column was written early Friday afternoon suggested that the Giants expect him to play. They've also made an all-out effort to feature Nicks the past two weeks. Eli Manning's target distribution since the Week 11 bye: Nicks 23, Victor Cruz 14, Martellus Bennett 10, Ahmad Bradshaw 5, Rueben Randle 4. ... Even if the target totals indicate otherwise, Cruz is the strongest Giants receiver play in Week 14. Coming off a five-catch, 104-yard outing at Washington, Cruz will square off with a New Orleans defense that has struggled in slot coverage throughout the season. Saints top CBs Jabari Greer and Patrick Robinson play almost strictly on the perimeter. Rookie Corey White, Johnny Patrick, and special teamer Elbert Mack have been mixed and matched on the inside, with none of the three playing well. Cruz is a WR1 in this matchup. ... A healthy Bennett adds a dangerous element to the Giants' passing attack, and he looked rejuvenated against the Redskins, running at full-boar down the seam en route to five catches, 82 yards, and a TD. New Orleans allows the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends, and the high-scoring outlook for Saints-Giants makes Bennett a very attractive start. The Saints can't generate pass pressure without blitzing, so Bennett should run plenty of patterns rather than being forced to stay on the line to block for most of this game.

Since the Week 11 open date, Bradshaw has racked up 161 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries (4.74 YPC). His workload has increased with Andre Brown (fractured leg) no longer in the picture, and Bradshaw matches up with the Saints' last-ranked run defense in Week 14. He's an easy top-15 running back play. ... While the Week 11 bye seemingly worked wonders for Bradshaw, Eli's accuracy has continued to be an issue and I think it's fair to question whether he's 100 percent healthy. He's missing so many throws. Facing the NFL's No. 30 pass defense keeps Eli in the QB1 mix, but his actual on-field performance remains a long-term concern, for both forward-looking fantasy owners and the Giants' playoff hopes. New York has a brutal schedule down the stretch, heading to Atlanta and Baltimore in Weeks 15-16. The Giants also have the worst division record of the NFC East's three postseason contenders, which could come back to haunt them if they don't win three of their final four. ... Despite Brown's injury, the Giants showed no inclination to use first-round pick David Wilson as more than a change-up back during last week's loss to Washington. He toted it four times for nine yards and is merely a late-season fantasy stash.

Score Prediction: Giants 28, Saints 27


Sunday Night Football

Detroit @ Green Bay

Tight end-strapped fantasy owners should look no further than Tony Scheffler in Week 14. With Ryan Broyles and Titus Young both on injured reserve, Scheffler will be Detroit's No. 3 receiver at Green Bay, operating as a full-time wideout along with Calvin Johnson and Mike Thomas. He'll play extensively in the slot, matching up with linebackers and undrafted rookie S M.D. Jennings. Scheffler will also run a high volume of pass routes because Green Bay is so pass rush-deficient without OLB Clay Matthews (hamstring). In a potential shootout, Scheffler is a sneaky candidate to lead Detroit in receptions. ... Finally hitting a stride since midseason, Matthew Stafford has completed 159-of-270 passes for 1,986 yards (7.36 YPA), and an 11:5 TD-to-INT ratio with a 12th touchdown on a scramble over his last six games. Even without Broyles and Young, the Lions field a receiver corps capable of giving Green Bay's No. 17 pass defense matchup issues all across the formation. Stafford is the No. 8 fantasy quarterback and a locked-and-loaded QB1 in this game. ... Megatron needs to average 105.1 yards per game over the final month to break Jerry Rice's single-season yardage record (1,848) for a wide receiver. Johnson is averaging 158 since the end of October. ... Thomas is a desperation WR3 option in Week 14. Even with an increasing role, the underachieving former Jaguar has caught just three passes for 16 yards over the past two games.

Green Bay has allowed the seventh fewest tight-end fantasy points and held Brandon Pettigrew to four catches for 22 yards in these teams' mid-November meeting. I prefer Scheffler to Pettigrew if you're deciding between the two for Sunday night. ... Although Joique Bell (7-81, 3-21) outscored Mikel Leshoure (21-57-1, 2-16) in terms of Week 13 yardage, there is no changing of the guard in Detroit's backfield. The Lions' coaching staff has identified Leshoure as its primary, "sustainer" back who will continue to dominate early-down carries. Even if OC Scott Linehan’s pledge to increase his change-of-pace opportunities comes to fruition, Bell will remain a role player barring injury to Leshoure. Ultimately, Bell has received double-digit touches in just one of Detroit's last four games. Leshoure has averaged 18 touches per week over that same span, and is the lone Lions back worth a fantasy start against the Packers' No. 15 run defense.

Aaron Rodgers has owned the Lions in his career. Rodgers' statistics in the seven games he's played start to finish against Detroit: 155-of-222 (69.8 percent) for 2,066 yards (9.31 YPA), and an 18:4 TD-to-INT ratio. The Lions rank an unimposing 18th against the pass, so expect Rodgers to bust loose from his recent two-game mini-funk on Sunday Night Football. ... Rodgers' updated target distribution since Green Bay's Week 10 bye: Randall Cobb 25, Jermichael Finley 15, Jordy Nelson 10, Greg Jennings 8, John Kuhn 7, Alex Green and James Jones 6, James Starks 4, Donald Driver 1. ... Forget easing Jennings back from in-season groin surgery. The Packers need him too much. Nelson re-strained his hamstring in the first quarter of last week's win over the Vikings, so Jennings was thrust into an every-down role and led the Packers in targets (8). Fantasy owners who hung onto Jennings through the tough times may emerge looking awfully savvy with a top 15-20 receiver throughout the fantasy playoffs. ... Jones actually led all Green Bay receivers in Week 13 snaps played (83-of-84). Head scratchingly, he was targeted just twice. Jones flashed fantasy reliability when both Jennings and Nelson were hurt earlier in the season, but he'll be a weekly headache going forward. It's been the case for Jones for most of his career. He still offers a high ceiling and scoring potential matching up with a leaky Lions pass defense.

Finley has come on some, topping 50 yards in three straight games and efficiently securing 12-of-15 targets over that span for 177 yards and a touchdown. It's been inefficiency that historically discourages Rodgers from treating Finley as a featured part of Green Bay's passing attack, so perhaps he's turning a corner. Finley makes sense as a Sunday night matchup play because he posted a 3-66-1 line in these teams' Week 11 meeting, and the Lions have allowed the fifth most fantasy points to tight ends. ... Cobb's production has sagged along with Rodgers' the past two weeks, but Jennings' return should lock Cobb back into the slot-receiver role he's comfortable with after being shuffled around the formation in Weeks 12-13. "Randall's going to stay in the slot I'd assume," Rodgers said this week, "and Greg will be outside for the most part." Cobb is the one Packers player the Lions are least likely to contain on Sunday night. Shake off the two-game slowdown and start Cobb as a borderline WR1. ... Starks' multi-week knee injury leaves Green as the Packers' probable lead back. It just doesn't make him a fantasy starter. Green Bay never would have turned to Starks had Green capitalized on his midseason opportunity to be the feature runner, and a hot-hand committee is likely with Kuhn and newly re-signed Ryan Grant in the mix. The Packers' backfield is a fantasy football rattrap. Don't expect that to suddenly change.

Score Prediction: Packers 27, Lions 24

Monday Night Football

Houston @ New England

Injuries have taken their toll on a Houston pass defense that opened the season playing as well as any group. Gone are every-down LBs Brian Cushing (ACL) and Brooks Reed (groin), and feisty slot CB Brice McCain (foot). Top CB Johnathan Joseph (hamstring, groin) will be a game-time decision Monday night, and his effectiveness has been compromised when playing at less than 100 percent. Over their last three games, the Texans have allowed Chad Henne, Jake Locker, and Matthew Stafford to throw for a combined 1,104 yards on 139 attempts (7.94 YPA) and a 7:3 TD-to-INT ratio. Houston has plummeted to 19th in the league's pass defense rankings. By no stretch is this a daunting matchup for No. 2 overall fantasy quarterback Tom Brady. ... Brady's target distribution since Aaron Hernandez returned from an ankle injury two games ago: Wes Welker 28, Hernandez 16, Brandon Lloyd and Julian Edelman 6, Danny Woodhead 4, Daniel Fells and Shane Vereen 3. ... Only Jimmy Graham is a better tight end start than Hernandez this week. Coming off a 13-target game, Hernandez faces a Texans defense allowing the 12th most fantasy points to tight ends. ... Without McCain, Houston has little chance of slowing down Welker. Fill-in slot CB Brandon Harris got eaten up by the Titans' inside receivers after McCain's injury last week, and with Percy Harvin done for the year Welker stands alone as the NFL's best slot man.

Lloyd's attractiveness as a Week 14 fantasy play depends largely on Joseph's availability and efficacy. Odds are, Joseph will at least try to play. “He looked good," coach Gary Kubiak said of his top corner after Thursday's practice. "... Looked very explosive, looked good." While Lloyd's targets haven't been an issue over the course of the year, the Pats have struggled to get the football downfield accurately all season long. Even with Edelman (foot) out for the year, Lloyd is a dicey WR3. ... Vereen received just three carries, gaining 14 yards, in last week's win over Miami and his week-to-week role has been minimal outside of garbage time-heavy blowout victories. He's Stevan Ridley's handcuff and nothing more. ... Woodhead has eight touches or fewer in five consecutive games. Owners in the fantasy playoffs are hopefully aiming higher. ... The Patriots are without Rob Gronkowski and Edelman, and it's conceivable that a team so shorthanded in its pass-catching corps will look to emphasize the rushing game in a matchup with a Texans defense that isn't nearly as stout as its No. 2 run-defense ranking indicates. They surrender over 4.0 yards per carry, and their ranking is skewed by the fact that Houston has faced the fewest rushing attempts in the league. Carrying teams into the fantasy postseason, Ridley has scored a touchdown in five straight games while maintaining reliable workloads. Only seven NFL running backs have more carries this season.

Following back-to-back games of 48-plus pass attempts, Matt Schaub's 35-throw, 207-yard Week 13 effort was more along the lines of what owners should expect from the glorified game manager week in and week out. Of course, matching up with the high-octane Patriots may well require the Texans to ask more of Schaub as a pure thrower on Monday Night Football. New England leads the NFL in total offense and points scored, and Houston will likely have to sling it around the yard to keep up. Consider Schaub a viable low-end QB1 in Week 14. It certainly doesn't hurt that the Patriots rank 29th against the pass. ... Andre Johnson is quietly on pace for 1,486 receiving yards, which would be the third highest sum of his Hall-of-Fame ten-year career. It will be interesting to see whether the Pats leave Johnson manned up on Aqib Talib. Johnson can win that matchup. ... New England has struggled in pass coverage at linebacker and safety all season long, surrendering the most yardage and second most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. Jimmy Graham and Aaron Hernandez are the only Week 14 tight end plays superior to Owen Daniels.

Schaub's updated target distribution since Houston's Week 8 bye: Johnson 60, Daniels 35, Kevin Walter 25, Garrett Graham 21, Arian Foster 19, James Casey 16. ... Behind Johnson and Daniels, the ball doesn't go to the Texans' other pass catchers regularly enough for consistent production out of the likes of Walter, Graham, Casey, and Lestar Jean. None of them is rosterable in re-draft leagues. ... The Patriots' defensive strength is versus the run, where they rank in the league's top nine and permit under 4.0 yards per rushing attempt. Foster, of course, remains the NFL's premier workhorse and is a weekly must-start even in difficult matchups. No player has collected more fantasy points through 12 games. ... Justin Forsett is staying ahead of Ben Tate on the Texans' running back depth chart for the time being, although neither Houston backup is start-able in fantasy leagues. Forsett's 14 carries last week were attributable to a comfortable early lead over the Titans. Don't expect the Texans to go up by two touchdowns early in this game. Meanwhile, Tate is still working his way into game shape. He does figure to retake the No. 2 spot behind Foster before the season ends.

Score Prediction: Patriots 30, Texans 27



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



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