Monday Night Football
Oakland @ Denver
Broncos backfield roles have clarified just in time for a cake matchup with the Raiders. Clear lead runner Knowshon Moreno led Denver backs in snaps (46), touches (16), and yards (107) in Week 2 against the Giants, ripping off 20- and 25-yard TD runs in the 41-23 victory. Montee Ball will stay involved as a change-up back and red-zone option, but Moreno is set up for a hot stretch after sheer reliability earned him the spot atop the depth chart. Denver's next seven games: vs. OAK, vs. PHI, @ DAL, vs. JAX, @ IND, vs. WAS, @ SD. Ride Moreno as an RB2/flex. LT Ryan Clady's year-ending Lisfranc injury further solidifies Moreno, as he is Denver's top pass-protection back. ... Internally, Ball remains the Broncos' preferred long-term solution, but he's made zero headway. Averaging 2.0 YPC with a fumble lost, Ball is a mere bench stash in fantasy. For his part, Ball has graded out positively in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking charts. He's still worth rostering as an RB3/4. On Monday night, look for the Broncos to grab a big lead and ride the run game with Clady out of the lineup. Ball is going to keep getting opportunities. ... All but weeded out of Denver's offense, Ronnie Hillman played two Week 2 snaps and got one carry. He can be dropped in 12-team leagues. ... Peyton Manning ended Week 2 as the No. 1 fantasy quarterback, and he's the top QB play of Week 3. Already talent deficient throughout their pass defense, the Raiders lost top defensive back Tyvon Branch to a fractured fibula in Week 2. Oakland is going to get undressed.
The Raiders often used Branch to shadow opposing tight ends, so his absence upgrades Julius Thomas' matchup. Thomas has played 150-of-150 offensive snaps, and is a virtual lock to finish among the top 5-8 fantasy tight ends if he stays healthy. ... Including January's playoffs, Manning has a 49:13 TD-to-INT ratio in 19 games as a Bronco. One of Denver's top-four pass catchers will likely be left out of the weekly fantasy bonanzas, though the outsider will be virtually impossible to predict from game to game. They are all worth starting against the Raiders. ... As alluded to in the Week 2 Matchups column, Eric Decker rebounded to be Denver's most-targeted receiver against the Giants, after his Opening Day clunker versus Baltimore. Peyton unfailingly keeps his receivers happy. Decker's last three stat lines against the Raiders: 8-88, 7-79-1, 3-47-1. He's a strong WR3. ... At the opposite end of the spectrum, Demaryius Thomas saw six Week 2 targets to Decker's 13, finishing with a pedestrian 52 yards on five catches. So it'll probably be Thomas back in a leading role Monday night. Peyton should be able to do whatever he wants. ... Wes Welker's 19 targets rank second on the Broncos only to Decker's 20, and he's quietly scoring at a top-15 fantasy wideout clip. It goes without saying that you should start Welker against Oakland.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $250,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 4. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.
The talent differential between Denver and Oakland is so drastic that starting Raiders skill players on Monday night is a shot in the dark. Vegas prognosticators agree, installing the Broncos as 15.5-point favorites with a 49.5 over-under, Week 3's second highest sum. Terrelle Pryor paid off as a Week 1 streamer, scoring 19.9 standard-league points. He did not in Week 2, managing 10.04. Pryor is intriguing from the standpoint that Denver could grab a big lead, increasing his dropbacks and playmaking opportunities. If the Raiders keep the game closer than expected, however, Pryor probably won't pay off. Start him at your own risk. ... Pryor's dual-threat impact was felt by Darren McFadden in Week 2, as the Jags focused on confining Pryor to the pocket. DMC had several gaping holes, emerging with a 19-game high in rushing (129) and 157 yards from scrimmage. He'll have a much tougher go Monday. Broncos DC Jack Del Rio's defense bottled up McFadden for 84 innocuous yards on 24 carries (3.50 YPC) in these teams' two 2012 meetings, and there is obvious risk of the Raiders abandoning the run. Through two weeks, ground attacks have been a non-factor versus Denver. No. 1 versus the run, Del Rio's unit has held the Ravens and Giants to a combined 81 yards on 40 carries (2.03 YPC). Suffocating.
Pryor's to-date distribution of targets: Rod Streater 12, McFadden and Denarius Moore 9, Mychal Rivera 6, Jacoby Ford and Brice Butler 4, Marcel Reece 3, Jeron Mastrud 2. ... Fantasy owners who tried to chase Moore's Week 1 points into Week 2 were dealt a goose egg. Perhaps Moore could be buoyed by throw-happy comeback mode against the Broncos, but I wouldn't bank on it. He's going to continue to be inconsistent because he's an inconsistent player. ... Streater is slightly interesting. More the possession receiver of the two, Streater runs higher-percentage routes and has at least four receptions in five of his last six games, going back to last year. Though somewhat short on upside, Streater is a Week 3 PPR sleeper. ... If you're a deep leaguer attempting to handcuff oft-injured McFadden, Rashad Jennings is your best bet. Reece has touched the football just three times this season. Jennings has seven touches for 36 yards.
Score Prediction: Broncos 33, Raiders 17
Video: Raiders - Broncos fantasy preview