Evan Silva


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Matchups: Set Up To Blow Up

Friday, October 11, 2013

4:25PM ET Games

New Orleans @ New England

Saints-Patriots is a fun one to try to project. The over-under is 50.5 points, and I feel that's on the conservative side with Tom Brady's weapons finally getting healthier. Although Rob Gronkowski (back) is going to miss one more game, Danny Amendola (groin) is headed toward resuming full-time receiver duties, giving New England a formidable three-receiver package with Julian Edelman and Kenbrell Thompkins. ... The Saints opened the year playing tough defense, but sprung leaks last week in Chicago. Jay Cutler toasted New Orleans for 358 yards and two touchdowns on 24-of-33 (72.7%) passing, avoiding interceptions. The arrow is pointing up on Brady. You'll want to start him in this likely shootout. ... Amendola played 39-of-63 snaps (61.9%) last week, and still led New England in targets (9). He's likely to see double digits against the Saints and play closer to 90% of the downs. Amendola is a standard-league WR2/3 and must-start in PPR. ... Despite Amendola's return, Julian Edelman remained a staple in all offensive packages against the Bengals last week. He was a 95-percent player, even if his production was down in a slow game for the entire Patriots offense. Edelman isn't quite the WR1/2 he was during Amendola's absence, but he's still very much in the weekly WR3 mix. He's an every-down receiver in a Brady-quarterbacked offense.

Same goes for Kenbrell Thompkins, whose consistency will be an issue but is locked in as an every-snap player at X receiver -- Brandon Lloyd's old position. He's a WR3 with increased attractiveness this week due to the game's high-scoring potential. Thompkins played all but two snaps in Amendola's return. With Gronk not playing, you could argue Thompkins is the likeliest Patriots pass catcher to score a Week 6 touchdown. ... LeGarrette Blount is who we thought he was, and confirmed it in Week 5 at Cincinnati. He averaged 4.25 YPC on 12 carries and lost a second-quarter fumble, which could cost Blount playing time going forward. ... Brandon Bolden has a specialized role as the passing-down back until Shane Vereen (wrist) returns in Week 11. He's averaged nine touches for 59 scoreless yards over the past three weeks. Bolden is a low-end flex option. He's a role player, and no threat to take over as New England's primary back. ... Listed as limited/questionable, Stevan Ridley (knee, thigh) is tentatively due back against the Saints after missing Week 5. New Orleans is most vulnerable on the ground, ceding a league-high 5.43 yards per rushing attempt. Unfortunately, we may not know Ridley's availability for certain until roughly 3PM ET Sunday. And that makes him a risky flex option. On the bright side, Ridley owners should view Blount's Week 5 struggles as a positive. On the off chance Ridley can get back to handling a clear majority of early-down carries, he still has a shot to provide RB2 value the rest of the way.

Over his last three games, Drew Brees has completed 88-of-120 passes (73.3%) for 1,043 yards (8.69 YPA) and a 9:1 TD-to-INT ratio, rushing for a tenth touchdown. New England has been excellent against the pass early in the season, but pouring on points in Brees' specialty. He's the No. 2 fantasy quarterback. ... Brees' target distribution: Jimmy Graham 53; Marques Colston and Darren Sproles 31; Pierre Thomas 30; Kenny Stills 16; Lance Moore 11; Ben Watson and Jed Collins 11; Robert Meachem 5; Nick Toon 3. ... Bill Belichick is famous for designing game plans that eliminate the opposition's best offensive weapon. I'm not saying the Patriots will successfully eliminate Graham, but it's very conceivable that the way they choose to guard him will open up the field for others. Sproles owners need to shake off last week's slow game and start him in Week 6. The Patriots' linebackers are big and bulky, and struggle in pass coverage. They've given up 23 catches for 185 yards to opposing running backs through five games. That's a 77-reception pace to backs, alone. This is a great matchup for Sproles. ... It's also a great matchup for Graham, however. New England has allowed the sixth most catches and 13th most yards to tight ends.

Moore (wrist) is out another game, but to this point Stills has failed to capitalize. The preseason star has failed to clear 40 yards since the opener. ... Colston's start has been slow by his usual fantasy standards, but he's still on pace to top 1,000 yards, and there's nothing that suggests he's suddenly fallen off a cliff. Colston is going to pick it up, so keep starting him. The Pats may use top CB Aqib Talib on Graham, which would put an inferior defensive back on New Orleans' mismatch-creating slot receiver. Despite his to-date stats, Colston remains a weekly WR2. ... Pierre Thomas disappointed in Weeks 1-4. In Week 5, he ripped off 91 yards on a season-high 28 touches and scored twice as a receiver. Thomas is a particularly dicey fantasy play this week because Mark Ingram (toe) may return. When Ingram was active for Weeks 1-2, Thomas only averaged 11 touches for 53.5 scoreless yards per game. Generally speaking, when Ingram is active for games Thomas carries no fantasy value. Nor does Ingram.

Score Prediction: Saints 30, Patriots 28

Arizona @ San Francisco

Carson Palmer started the season hot and has spiraled downward since. Palmer has completed just 78 of his last 138 throws (56.5%) for 833 yards (6.04 YPA) with a 3:8 TD-to-INT ratio. He's a passer who requires pocket space due to nonexistent mobility, and isn't getting it enough behind a Cardinals line that ranks 28th in Pro Football Focus' pass-pro metrics. The 49ers rank No. 2 in pass defense and haven't missed a beat without Aldon Smith (leave of absence) due to improved back-end coverage. Palmer is a low-end two-quarterback-league play at Candlestick. ... Palmer's target distribution since Rob Housler returned from a high ankle sprain in Week 3: Michael Floyd 23, Larry Fitzgerald 21, Andre Ellington 17, Andre Roberts 7, Housler and Rashard Mendenhall 7, Jim Dray 3. ... In addition to Palmer's inefficiency, the big concern for Fitz is he hasn't been heavily targeted like Reggie Wayne was in Bruce Arians' offense last year. I still like Fitzgerald as an every-week WR2/3, and expect him to square off with 49ers slot CB Carlos Rogers on most of Sunday's snaps. 23 of Fitz's 40 targets on the season have come inside the numbers because he's playing in the slot so frequently. Rogers has been San Francisco's weakest cover corner.

Floyd gets a tougher draw versus outside corners Tarell Brown and Tramaine Brock and is a low-end WR3 at San Francisco. The 2013 first-rounder is on pace for 68 catches and 964 scoreless yards. ... Roberts' playing time is way down since Housler's return. He played 53% of the Week 5 snaps, saw one target, and can be dropped in re-draft leagues. ... Arians is using more two-tight end sets than expected, likely in an effort to address the deficient pass protection. He's historically a three-receiver coach. Housler and Dray remain off the fantasy radar. The 49ers are stingy in tight end coverage. ... Arians confirmed this week that he envisions Ellington as a committee back only capable of handling 30-32 snaps per week. It's about 50% of a normal game. Mendenhall and to a lesser extent Alfonso Smith will handle the rest of the workload. Although Ellington's involvement has picked up -- he recorded a season-high 11 touches in Week 5 -- the impressive rookie is not yet trustworthy as more than a shaky flex. Mendenhall is still dominating early-down and goal-line carries. Outside of desperate bye-week scenarios, I'd view the Arizona backfield as a fantasy situation to avoid. It's a timeshare behind ineffective blocking. The 49ers rank 20th in run defense, but only give up 3.66 yards per carry and have up-front personnel to dominate the Cardinals in the trenches. Mendenhall has managed 94 yards on his last 39 carries (2.41 YPC).

This one sets up nicely for a Vernon Davis blowup game. Not only are the Cardinals allowing the fourth most fantasy points to tight ends, but Davis projects as Colin Kaepernick's clear-cut go-to option as Patrick Peterson bodies up Anquan Boldin and Arizona trots out a stifling run defense that ranks third in the league and is submitting only 3.32 yards per carry. Davis confirmed his early-season hamstring problems are behind him on a 64-yard scoring sprint down the sideline in last week's win over Houston, and he resumed practicing on a full-time basis ahead of Week 6. Only Jimmy Graham is a theoretically better tight end bet this week, and I wouldn't be surprised if Davis outscored him. ... Although Peterson's coverage is less consistent than popular opinion suggests, at 6-foot-1 and 219 pounds he is built perfectly to match up man-to-man with 6-foot-1, 223-pound Boldin, and almost certainly will on the vast majority of Sunday's snaps. Boldin is still worth firing up as a WR3, but I wouldn't view this as a favorable matchup. Receiver-rich fantasy owners might want to contemplate alternatives. ... Colin Kaepernick's target distribution in Week 5, after the 49ers inserted Jon Baldwin as a starter: Boldin 6, Davis 6, Baldwin 2, Bruce Miller 1.

Kap only needed 15 pass attempts against the Texans because Matt Schaub essentially gave the game to San Francisco. Therefore, it's difficult to hold Kaepernick's weak fantasy results against him as it pertains to Week 6. Kaepernick quietly had his best regular season game against a similar-looking Arizona defense in Week 17 last year, touching up the Cardinals for 276 yards and two touchdowns on 16-of-28 passing. Feel free to treat Kaepernick as a borderline fantasy starter until his production picks up, but this an above-average matchup. Arizona ranks 19th versus the pass and 20th in Pro Football Focus' team pass-coverage metrics. They're a much better defense with ILB Daryl Washington back from suspension, but Washington played in that Week 17 game, too. The 49ers know all about him. ... Baldwin failed to secure either of his Week 5 targets and is a fantasy WR5 until something changes. He played 23-of-53 snaps (43%) against Houston, although the Niners pulled their starters early. ... Frank Gore inarguably has a difficult matchup in this game, but he's a top-five fantasy running back over the past three weeks and can never be benched. An every-week RB2, Gore has 316 yards and two TDs on his last 48 carries (6.58 YPC).

Score Prediction: 49ers 24, Cardinals 17

Sunday Night Football

Washington @ Dallas

The Week 5 bye came at a perfect time for Robert Griffin III, a film junkie who undoubtedly pored over his shoddy early-season mechanics during the open date while simultaneously getting further removed from January's knee reconstruction. He's a candidate to take off statistically over the Redskins' final 12 games. RG3 ranks tenth in per-game quarterback scoring, so he wasn't hurting fantasy teams in the first place. Lock in Griffin as an elite QB1 in this projected shootout indoors with a week-high 53.5-point over-under. ... Helping RG3's outlook is the healthy return of TEs Fred Davis (ankle) and Jordan Reed (quad), who aren't necessarily standalone fantasy assets but give Griffin chain-moving presences over the middle and down the seams. The Cowboys have allowed the third most fantasy points to tight ends, so you could do worse as a fill-in TE1 than primary pass-catcher Reed. ... Amid Griffin's early-season struggles, Pro Football Focus has graded Washington's offensive line as the second best pass-blocking unit in football, behind only Denver. That'll come in handy against a pressure-oriented Dallas defense. ... Griffin's target distribution through four games: Pierre Garcon 44, Santana Moss 26, Leonard Hankerson 24, Reed 15, Josh Morgan 15, Logan Paulsen 11, Roy Helu 9, Davis 7, Aldrick Robinson 6, Alfred Morris 4. ... Garcon is a man on a mission this season. Soaking up targets, Garcon is averaging 11 of them a game and ranks No. 15 in per-game fantasy receiver scoring. In this plus matchup versus struggling Cowboys CBs Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr, Garcon is a borderline fantasy WR1.

On pace for 60 catches, 740 yards, and eight touchdowns, Hankerson is worth a WR3 look in this projected high-scoring affair. Although not heavily targeted, HankTime has big-play potential off play action and has handled 67.8% of Washington's offensive snaps the past two games. ... Slot man Moss is the only other Redskins pass catcher worth any hint of fantasy consideration, though not much. He was targeted three times in the Skins' last game, had one drop, and finished without a catch. Opposing slot receivers versus Dallas over the past month: Wes Welker 5-49-1, Dexter McCluster 2-14, Tavon Austin 6-30, Eddie Royal 3-42. ... The Cowboys rank No. 4 in run defense, albeit a more middling 12th in YPC allowed (3.80). In Week 5, Knowshon Moreno tagged Dallas for 93 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries (4.89 YPC). In Week 4, Chargers backs combined to rough up the Cowboys for 112 yards on 27 runs. This isn't a great matchup for Morris, but it isn't a forbidding one, either. In his two career meetings with Dallas, Morris has ripped off 313 yards and four touchdowns on 57 carries (5.49 YPC). Healthy after the bye, start Alf with a heaping helping of excitement. ... Helu performed well off the bench with Morris nursing a rib injury in Week 4, but will resume handcuff/third-down back duties against the Cowboys. When Morris has stayed healthy for four quarters this season, Helu has averaged two touches for 18 total yards per game.

The Redskins get back DE Jarvis Jenkins and OLB Rob Jackson from suspension in Week 6, but they're going to need a miracle worker to save Jim Haslett's defense. They're dead last in total defense, 28th against the pass, and second to last versus the run. After last week's pass-happy shootout with Denver, this game is an opportunity for Dallas to reestablish its rushing attack. In addition to its No. 31 run-defense rank, Washington is shelling out 4.66 yards per carry and an average of one rushing score per game. DeMarco Murray has produced like an RB1 to this point in the season, and should be treated like one in Week 6 versus the Skins. ... Miles Austin's expected return from a hamstring injury helps Tony Romo's fantasy cause, but doesn't necessarily restore Austin to fantasy reliability, or remove the wind from Terrance Williams' sails. Due to the recurring nature of this injury for this particular player, it's entirely possible Austin will be "eased" back in, playing slot receiver only on passing downs while Williams and Dez Bryant remain the every-down outside wideouts. Bryant is an obvious WR1 as he squares off with DeAngelo Hall, who admittedly got the better of Dez in their Week 17 matchup (4-71) last year but is highly unlikely to do so again. Williams is a boom-or-bust WR3 play. Fantasy owners should put Austin on a wait-and-see week. If he plays well against the Skins, consider it a plus and start him in Week 7 at Philly.

The Redskins are leaky everywhere on defense. The safety play has been atrocious. Slot CB Josh Wilson is 85th of 104 in Pro Football Focus' cornerback grades, and Hall is 78th. Rookie RCB David Amerson has been highly inconsistent. OLBs Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan have been the lone bright spots as pass rushers. If they get heat on Romo, look for Jason Witten to step up as Dallas' primary hot read. Witten's last three stat lines against Jim Haslett's Redskins defense: 7-56-1, 9-74, 3-85-1. To date this season, Witten is the No. 6 overall fantasy tight end. ... Romo is playing some of the best football of his career. He's third in fantasy quarterback scoring behind only Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, and over his last eight home starts Romo has a 23:4 TD-to-INT ratio. Among Week 6 fantasy quarterback options, I'd only start Manning and Drew Brees over Romo. He's playing that well and has that attractive a matchup.

Score Prediction: Cowboys 30, Redskins 27

Monday Night Football

Indianapolis @ San Diego

Monday night's over-under is 50 points, meaning the prognosticators anticipate a healthy dose of scoring. They must not be taking Indianapolis' No. 6 pass defense particularly seriously, which makes sense because the Colts have yet to face a high-volume, high-efficiency quarterback through five games. Philip Rivers fits those criteria, however, ranking top ten in pass attempts (38 a game) and No. 2 in completion rate (73.7) with a 13:5 TD-to-INT ratio. This game has shootout potential, and Rivers' early-season performance locks him in as an every-week QB1. ... Rivers' target distribution the past two games: Antonio Gates 20, Vincent Brown 17, Danny Woodhead 16, Keenan Allen 15, Eddie Royal 12, Ryan Mathews 4, Ronnie Brown 3, Ladarius Green 1. ... Racking up receptions in space as Rivers' new Darren Sproles, Woodhead is first-year coach Mike McCoy's best means of manufacturing offense for a team with major O-Line deficiencies and no legitimate downfield passing threat. Clearly, Woodhead is a huge part of the weekly game plans and in line for more carries with Mathews (concussion) seeming likely to be inactive. Due to the way Woodhead is utilized, run-defense matchups don't matter. He's a strong Week 6 flex in standard leagues and an RB2 in PPR. ... Confirming his Weeks 1-2 TD binge was fluky on the regular, Royal ranks 75th in fantasy wideout scoring ever since. I'd drop him in 10- and 12-team leagues. He could score another fluke touchdown on Monday night and I still wouldn't regret it.

The targets trend and matchup both favor Brown over Allen as a Week 6 fantasy start. Whereas rookie Allen will run most of his routes into Colts top CB Vontae Davis' coverage, Brown will deal with more beatable LCB Greg Toler on the majority of Monday night's snaps. It's worth noting that Allen's Week 4 production (5-80) came against struggling Cowboys RCB Morris Claiborne, and in Week 5 Allen had one catch-less target until the Chargers fell behind the Raiders 17-0 at halftime. Allen is an ascendant player, but not quite trustworthy in re-draft leagues yet. ... Brown opened the season playing inefficient football. Over the past two weeks, he's secured 14-of-17 targets for 158 yards. I'd view him as a mid-range WR3 in Week 6. ... Gates and Woodhead are still the every-week favorites for passing-game production in San Diego. Proving to be a draft-day steal, Gates is the No. 4 overall fantasy tight end and ranks second to only Jimmy Graham in tight end yards. The Colts aren't allowing many fantasy points to tight ends, but that's primarily because they haven't played many good ones. Vernon Davis sat out the Indy game in Week 3. In Week 2, Dolphins H-back Charles Clay ate up the Colts for 109 receiving yards on five catches. Otherwise, Indianapolis has faced the likes of Luke Willson, Clay Harbor/Allen Reisner, and Mychal Rivera.

No. 7 overall fantasy quarterback Andrew Luck has a cake Week 6 matchup versus San Diego's No. 27 pass defense, a unit that has surrendered a 10:1 TD-to-INT ratio to enemy quarterbacks and got picked apart by Terrelle Pryor last week. Opponents are completing 69.8% of their throws against the Chargers, who have little or no prayer of generating pass rush after losing Dwight Freeney for the season. Look for a clean pocket for Luck, who can be argued as a top-five QB1 play this week. ... The Colts shouldn't have much trouble generating ball movement on Monday night. It's also an opportunity to kick start their scuffling ground game versus San Diego's No. 24 run defense, which surrenders the fifth highest yards-per-carry average (4.88) in football. Perhaps Trent Richardson isn't the top-five RB1 we envisioned at the season's start, but there aren't ten better running back bets in Week 6. ... Despite Donald Brown's superior per-play production, the Colts aren't showing urgency to make their backfield a committee scenario, and likely won't. Brown only touched the football eight times in Week 5. Brown's three-yard touchdown in last week's win over Seattle isn't a sign of things to come. It came on a shotgun draw play in a specialized personnel package. T-Rich remains the heavy favorite for all Colts goal-line work.

T.Y. Hilton was sensational against the Seahawks, getting behind LCB Richard Sherman for a 73-yard touchdown and flat-out burning RCB Brandon Browner on a 29-yard scoring bomb. Hilton's weekly snap and target counts have been frustrating, but his Week 6 matchup is ideal. Bolts RCB Derek Cox is 91st of 104 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' cornerback ratings, and LCB Shareece Wright is 93rd. ... Luck's target distribution on the year: Reggie Wayne 42, Hilton 35, Darrius Heyward-Bey 26, Coby Fleener 21, Richardson and Brown 5. ... Wayne is the No. 19 overall fantasy receiver this season, and No. 18 over the past three weeks. He's an every-week WR2. Facing Cox, Wright, and similarly struggling Chargers slot CB Johnny Patrick, this might be the most favorable coverage matchup Wayne draws all year. ... The Colts are using Heyward-Bey as a possession-blocking receiver. DHB was targeted six times against Seattle and did not secure any of them, including a brutal drop on a bubble screen. He's miles from fantasy relevance. ... Although Fleener is capable of productive games, he simply hasn't been a heavily-targeted part of Indy's passing offense. San Diego is getting burned on the perimeter, but is 19th in receptions allowed to tight ends (22) and 21st in yards (249). Fleener is mere bye-week filler.

Score Prediction: Colts 28, Chargers 24

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