Evan Silva


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Matchups: Set Up To Blow Up

Friday, October 11, 2013

1:00PM ET Games

Green Bay @ Baltimore

The loss of Clay Matthews (thumb) for a month or longer robs Green Bay of its lone high-impact pass rusher and makes life easier for passing offenses that normally would've had to scheme to account for a player with ten sacks over his previous nine games. It won't turn Joe Flacco into a QB1, but certainly helps his two-quarterback-league start-ability. As does the addition of LT Eugene Monroe, who will make his Baltimore debut in Week 6. Expect a cleaner pocket for Flacco, increasing the likelihood of successful downfield shot plays. ... The Ravens' most dangerous vertical receiver, of course, is Torrey Smith, who's on pace for 87 receptions and 1,780 yards. He has at least 85 yards in every game this season and is flirting with WR1 value. Smith runs his routes on the perimeter, where Packers CBs Sam Shields and Tramon Williams have been up and down. ... Flacco's 2013 targets: Smith 51, Dallas Clark 29, Marlon Brown 23, Ray Rice 22, Brandon Stokley 16, Tandon Doss 14, Deonte Thompson 12, Ed Dickson and Vonta Leach 11, Bernard Pierce 5. ... Brown returns from a hamstring injury that cost him Week 5. Brown has not been heavily targeted and could share snaps with Jacoby Jones. This is a fine matchup, but I'd want to see Brown play effectively following the muscle pull before trusting him in fantasy.

As promised by coach John Harbaugh, the Ravens recommitted to Rice as their offensive foundation in last week's triumph over Miami. Restored to RB1 status, Rice handled a season-high 33 touches despite some early-game struggles, including a lost fumble on Baltimore's third drive. Matthews' absence will be felt on the ground, where Pro Football Focus graded him as a top-five 3-4 outside 'backer versus the run. The Packers are also down top ILB Brad Jones, who suffered a significant Week 5 hamstring injury. This is a good matchup for Rice, who can be counted on as an every-week starter. ... Rice dominated the workload against the Dolphins, but Pierce still ran 11 times for 46 yards and will remain an oft-used change-of-pace back, bringing power off the bench. He just isn't a desirable flex play. ... Clark, Stokley, Doss, Thompson, and Dickson are not worth rostering in 12-team leagues. Clark went catch-less against the Fins, playing 46% of the snaps and failing to see a single target. Doss got the start, but only because Brown was inactive. Dickson finally made some catches, but was targeted twice and is not a big part of the Ravens' passing attack.

The Ravens are playing stout run defense and generate a ton of pass pressure, so expectations should probably be checked a bit for Green Bay skill-position players. The good news for Eddie Lacy is he now has the Packers' backfield all to himself. Change-of-pace back Johnathan Franklin didn't play a single snap after losing a second-quarter fumble in last Sunday's win over Detroit, finishing with three carries for one yard and zero passing-game targets. In his first game back from a concussion, Lacy toted the rock 23 times with one reception. Lacy is solidified as an every-week RB2, but running room could be difficult to come by in Week 6. The Ravens have permitted 449 yards and one touchdown on 132 carries (3.40 YPC). They eliminated Miami's rushing attack in Week 5. Lacy owners need to hope for a goal-line plunge. ... Pass rush is Rodgers' primary Week 6 concern. Terrell Suggs, who will meet Packers rookie LT David Bakhtiari on the majority of Sunday's snaps, single-handedly took over last week's game against the Dolphins in the fourth quarter and is up to seven sacks through five games. Elvis Dumervil has three more sacks and will do battle with Packers RT Don Barclay. Rodgers can never be benched in fantasy, but he'll need to get rid of the football quickly on Sunday. As a team, Baltimore is second in the NFL in sacks (19).

Rodgers' target distribution: Randall Cobb 41, Jordy Nelson 30, James Jones 28, Jermichael Finley 22, Andrew Quarless 8, Lacy and Franklin 3. ... The Ravens have surprisingly used Corey Graham at slot cornerback in passing situations this season. It's top CB Lardarius Webb's old job. Graham has struggled inside, grading 71st of 104 qualifying corners in Pro Football Focus' coverage ratings. On pace for 100 receptions, 1,612 total yards, and eight touchdowns, Cobb is an every-week starter with a plus matchup. ... Nelson is a locked-in WR1/2, but gets the toughest draw of Packers pass catchers this week. Nelson is running the majority of his routes against left corners and will line up against Webb on most of Sunday's snaps. ... RCB Jimmy Smith has been Baltimore's worst starting defensive back this year. While we've learned to expect the unexpected out of Jones, his Week 6 matchup is outstanding on paper, and Jones has at least 100-plus receiving yards and/or a touchdown in three consecutive games. He'll deal with Smith for much of Sunday. ... Finley managed 32 scoreless yards in last week's win over Detroit, but secured 6-of-6 targets and will continue to be fed by Rodgers as long as he's playing efficient football. Baltimore has surrendered the 13th most fantasy points to tight ends. Finley remains a low-end TE1.

Score Prediction: Ravens 27, Packers 24

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $50,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 6. It's $25 to join and first prize is $7,500. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.

Detroit @ Cleveland

Brandon Weeden's quarterback reinsertion is an inarguable downgrade from Brian Hoyer (ACL tear), but doesn't necessarily torpedo the value of Browns skill players. In the case of Willis McGahee, Weeden could help. Weeden's tendencies to hold onto the football too long and take sacks increase the likelihood of Cleveland committing to a foundation run game. We saw a glimpse of that two Thursdays ago, as McGahee racked up a year-high 26 carries with Weeden playing all but the game's first four minutes. McGahee is 32 years old and has obviously lost quick-twitch lower-body explosion, but his vision is a big plus and he can still eat up blocked yards. Now familiar with Norv Turner's pass protections, McGahee is also likely to play more in the passing game. The Lions rank 26th against the run, and their offense won't walk all over the Browns' top-four defense, keeping this game competitive. I don't love what's left of McGahee's run skills, but I do love his volume and Week 6 matchup. ... Over the final 11 games, Jordan Cameron is more likely to score like a back-end TE1 than the elite starter he had potential to be with Hoyer under center. The Browns aren't going to pass as often, and the overall offensive production will take a hit. The Lions have allowed the seventh most receptions (30) in the league to tight ends, and the 14th most yards. There's nothing discouraging about Cameron's matchup versus Detroit.

Weeden's target distribution on the season: Greg Little 25, Davone Bess 23, Cameron 19, Travis Benjamin 10, Josh Gordon and Ogbonnaya 8, McGahee 2. ... Keep in mind the numbers are skewed by Gordon's two-game suspension, which is when Weeden has played his most 2013 football. They'll normalize as Weeden plays more. ... Little has since been demoted out of the starting lineup, replaced by possession-slot receiver Bess. Little isn't worth a fantasy roster spot. Bess is a WR4/5 in PPR and lacks standard-league value with a weekly ceiling of roughly six catches for 65 scoreless yards. Bess has one TD over his last 19 games. ... Despite plenty of shortcomings, Weeden has superior arm talent to Hoyer and is a better bet to execute vertical shot plays, which are how Gordon butters his bread. Some opposing outside receiver stats versus the Lions through five weeks: James Jones 4-127-1, Alshon Jeffery 5-107-1, Jerome Simpson 7-140, Pierre Garcon 8-73, Brandon Marshall 7-79. Fantasy owners should view Gordon as an every-week WR2. Among wide receivers, only Dez Bryant, Jeffery, and Wes Welker have scored more fantasy points than Gordon over the past three weeks. ... While he does stand a chance to keep Gordon and Cameron fed, Weeden is a two-quarterback-league stretch against a Lions defense that ranks second in the league in interceptions (8) and has been stingier versus the pass than run.

A road test with Cleveland's top-four defense won't remedy what's ailing the Lions' offense. Calvin Johnson's (knee) availability will not be known until Sunday morning, and it'll be dictated by his body's response to late-week attempts to practice. Detroit's offense shut down without Megatron in last week's loss to Green Bay, almost as if the Lions had no fallback plan in the event of Johnson's inactivity. They clearly weren't expecting it. The Browns rank No. 7 against the pass and No. 8 versus the run, and have had ten days between games following last Thursday's 37-24 triumph over Buffalo. ... Matthew Stafford produced as a top-five fantasy quarterback over the first month. His performance went in the gutter without Megatron against the Pack, taking five sacks to nearly double his previous season total, and failing to generate passing offense before late-game garbage time. There's a possibility Johnson will not play Sunday, and also a possibility Megatron will be well shy of 100% even if he does get the start. If I did weekly rankings, Stafford would be out of my top-12 quarterbacks in Week 6. Beyond Reggie Bush, Stafford's supporting cast is well below average when Johnson doesn't play or is ineffective. ... The Lions should at least have a game plan in case Megatron is inactive this week, with Bush as the logical featured player. Although Cleveland has played stout run defense, so too have the Bears (pre-Brandon Jacobs) and Bush lit them up for 173 total yards and a touchdown in Week 4. "Space" backs like Bush can be matchup proof because their teams don't use them to grind between the tackles. They get fed in the open field and rack up yardage in all-purpose fashion. Bush is a fantasy RB1 this and every week.

Stafford's targets since Nate Burleson fractured his arm: Bush, Brandon Pettigrew, and Kevin Ogletree 12; Kris Durham 11; Megatron 10 (missed game); Tony Scheffler 9; Joique Bell 8; Pat Edwards 5; Ryan Broyles 3. ... Guessing Lions box-score stats behind Bush and Megatron is a precarious crapshoot. Pettigrew would seemingly make sense as a beneficiary if Calvin is hobbled or doesn't play, but he's on pace for under 500 yards and hasn't scored a touchdown this year. Enemy tight end numbers versus Cleveland: Kyle Rudolph 5-28; Jermaine Gresham 3-53; Tyler Eifert 3-39; Charles Clay 5-54; Dallas Clark 1-8; Ed Dickson 0-0; Scott Chandler 4-49. No tight end has scored on the Browns. ... Scheffler (concussion) is not expected to play. ... Durham scored a garbage-time TD against Green Bay and has played 96% of Detroit's snaps over the last two games. He's on the desperation WR3 radar, and would likely benefit if Megatron commanded Joe Haden's coverage, allowing Durham to square off with Chris Owens and Buster Skrine. ... If Calvin is active, he's a fantasy must-start despite obvious risk. He has played effectively through nicks before. ... Bell has averaged ten touches for 46.5 yards per game without a touchdown since Bush got healthy following an early-season knee scare. Bell should be held in all leagues as a lottery-ticket stash, but he's not on the flex radar against Cleveland's stout defense. ... The Lions publicly stated Broyles and rookie TE Joseph Fauria would be more involved in Week 6. Although both are worth monitoring, it would be near-impossible to rely on either as a fantasy starter.

Score Prediction: Lions 21, Browns 17

Cincinnati @ Buffalo

A.J. Green's fantasy owners are understandably frustrated with their WR1's production over the past month. Green hasn't topped 61 receiving yards over that span, scoring one touchdown. The Bills have been a slump buster for enemy wideouts all season, so the time to buy low on Green is now. Some wideout stat lines against Buffalo through five weeks: Torrey Smith 5-166-1; Santonio Holmes 5-154-1; Stephen Hill 3-108-1; Ted Ginn 3-62-1, Danny Amendola 10-104, Julian Edelman 7-79-2; Josh Gordon 4-86-1. The anticipated return of Bills top corner Stephon Gilmore (wrist) could make this a tougher matchup than those numbers indicate, but keep in mind this'll be Gilmore's first game action since August. Start Green confidently. ... Andy Dalton is to blame for Cincinnati's pass-game dysfunction. He's been struggling since late last year. Dalton's stats over his last 11 games: 220-of-359 for 2,242 yards (6.24 YPA) and a 9:11 TD-to-INT ratio with four more turnovers on lost fumbles. He's absorbed 33 sacks during that span. Just not getting any better, Dalton is a low-end QB2 even against Buffalo's statistically leaky pass defense. ... Dalton's 2013 target distribution: Green 58, Jermaine Gresham 28, Mohamed Sanu 26, Tyler Eifert 24, Giovani Bernard 18, Marvin Jones 15, BenJarvus Green-Ellis 3. ... Despite all of the defensive attention paid to Green, Sanu has failed to capitalize. He's like the anti-Alshon Jeffery. On pace for 557 scoreless yards, Sanu isn't even worth a fantasy dice roll in plus matchups.


Friday Update: Gilmore practiced "sparingly" Friday and is listed as questionable to face the Bengals. Coach Doug Marrone is calling his top corner a "game-time decision." Green owners shouldn't fear Gilmore's coverage because he may not play, and even if he does could be limited in the game. It sounds like Gilmore is not yet 100%.

Just as feared entering the season, Gresham and Eifert are working against themselves on a weekly basis, eliminating each other's fantasy start-ability. Neither has scored a touchdown or reached the 70-yard mark this year. They're both low-ceiling TE2s. The Bills have allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to tight ends. ... Bernard seemed to take control of Cincy's backfield in Weeks 3-4. It didn't carry over to Week 5 against New England. Green-Ellis handled 19 carries -- his most since Week 2 -- and executed on a fourth-quarter goal-line try. Bernard only played one fewer snap than Law Firm, but was limited to 69 scoreless yards on 15 all-purpose touches. Gio can't be trusted as more than a flex play until his role formally expands, and the Bengals don't seem to feel any urgency to make that happen. Not involved in the passing game and a plodder on the ground, Green-Ellis' week-to-week fantasy value is wholly dependent on goal-line plunges. Working in each back's favor this week is Buffalo's average to below-average, 22nd-ranked run defense. The Bills have allowed 544 yards on 131 carries (4.15 YPC) to enemy tailbacks through five games. It isn't quite a plus matchup for Bernard and Green-Ellis but isn't prohibitive, either.

On game day against the Bengals, C.J. Spiller will be 14 days removed from suffering his ankle injury and 10 days from gutting out 66 yards on eight carries in last Thursday's loss to Cleveland, including a jump-cutting 54-yard TD despite playing at significantly less than 100%. Although Fred Jackson has scored more fantasy points to this point in the season, Spiller has more all-purpose touches and has started all four of the games for which he's been healthy. Spiller is locked in as Buffalo's lead runner. He is an every-week starter regardless of matchups. ... Cincy's D-Line is stacked on paper, but is more built to shoot gaps and rush the passer than clog running lanes. Two-down NT Domata Peko is the Bengals' only real run stopper up front, and he is easily the Bengals' least effective defensive lineman. Averaging 16.4 touches per game and gobbling up goal-line carries as well as receptions, Jackson is a quality flex starter in this matchup. With E.J. Manuel (LCL) shelved indefinitely and practice squadder Thad Lewis tabbed as his replacement, the only way Buffalo has any shot to stay competitive in games is to ride its rushing attack at a voluminous and steady clip. Bills coach Doug Marrone and OC Nathaniel Hackett believe in this style of football, anyway. No NFL offense has run the ball more than Buffalo through five weeks.

There is a perception Manuel's injury takes the wind out of the Bills' offensive sails, but I don't think that'll necessarily be the case. Manuel wasn't playing very well, and I doubt Lewis will be a major downgrade. Marrone and Hackett are orchestrating high-percentage passing offense, letting Manuel dink and dunk while protecting him with the NFL's highest-volume running game. E.J. struggled mightily on throws outside the numbers, where Lewis' accuracy could not possibly be worse. Last year, Lewis kept the Browns' offense moving in a Week 17 spot start at Heinz Field versus a Steelers team that finished the season ranked No. 1 in total defense, No. 1 versus the pass, and No. 2 versus the run. Lewis completed 69% of 32 attempts for 204 yards and a touchdown to Greg Little. Ben Watson was Lewis' leading receiver. ... As much as I don't think Lewis will crush Buffalo's offense as a whole, I don't think Bills pass catchers can be trusted in Week 6 fantasy lineups against a Cincinnati defense that shut down New England's passing attack a game ago. Rookie Robert Woods and banged-up Stevie Johnson (back) are WR3 shots in the dark. Scott Chandler will probably see his usual 5-6 targets and is a low-end TE2. Hopefully, we'll have a better idea of what to expect from Buffalo's Manuel-less passing game after this week.

Score Prediction: Bills 20, Bengals 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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