Evan Silva


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Matchups: Loving Le'Veon

Saturday, October 26, 2013

1:00PM ET Games

Miami @ New England

Rob Gronkowski is going to be the target monster we all imagined for wideout-deficient New England. In his 2013 debut last week against the Jets, an understandably winded Gronk only played 51-of-79 snaps (64.6%) but piled up an astronomical 17 targets -- the most by any NFL tight end in Week 7. (Second place had 9.) With Jimmy Graham hobbled, Gronk is once again fantasy's premier TE1. Miami has allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends. ... The rest of Tom Brady's target distribution in Gronk's return: Julian Edelman and Aaron Dobson 7, Kenbrell Thompkins and Austin Collie 5, Brandon Bolden 3, Stevan Ridley 2. ... Amendola's (concussion) expected Week 8 activity will throw New England's pass-catching corps for another loop behind Gronkowski. The snap and target totals of Edelman, Dobson, and Thompkins had already become frustratingly unpredictable from week to week, so adding another body who commands pass-game attention further muddies an already slippery situation. (As does the emergence of Collie as a legitimate factor.) ... My guess is Edelman and Amendola will be the slot/Z receivers on the majority of Sunday's snaps, with Thompkins at X. Dobson would rotate in based on personnel packages, and Collie would be among New England's inactives. That's just my guess. I'd view Edelman as a WR3 versus Miami, Thompkins as a WR4, and Amendola as a WR2/3. Hang onto Dobson just to see what happens.

Tom Brady's play independent of those around him has been concerning. I thought it was slightly worrisome in 2012, as well. He's simply not the intermediate to deep thrower he used to be, and we highlighted that in our summer Draft Guide. I still view Brady as a top-eight QB1 the rest of the way with Gronk and Amendola back behind one of the NFL’s premier O-Lines. I think he'll have a big game against Miami's No. 25 pass defense. ... Patriots backfield usage is always subject to weekly change due to Bill Belichick's game plan-based usage, but it sure seems as if LeGarrette Blount is fading away. And that's promising news for Ridley. No longer maximizing his touches, Blount has a pathetic 13 yards on his last 9 carries (1.44 YPC) going back to Week 5. He played two snaps against the Jets. ... Ridley, meanwhile, has turned his last 42 runs into 199 yards (4.74 YPC) and three touchdowns. He's caught all six of his passing-game targets on the year, which could earn him more receiving work moving forward. Ridley is an every-week RB2 again. The Fins' middling run defense ranks No. 14 in yards allowed. ... Bolden played more Week 7 snaps than usual due to Belichick's week-specific game plan. The Pats attacked the Jets with hurry-up packages, and Bolden is their primary back in those sets. Playing Bolden in fantasy is a total crapshoot. He hasn't exceeded 11 touches in any game this year and has one touchdown. Bolden is simply not a player the Patriots make a serious effort to get the football to on a weekly basis. He is a role player.

Lamar Miller has outplayed Daniel Thomas since 2012, so when the Dolphins emerged from their Week 6 bye with Thomas starting and Miller as a timeshare partner, it was a tell-tale sign: This RBBC is here to stay, and we can no longer expect a commitment to either back. OC Mike Sherman's playcalling indicates he and coach Joe Philbin don't think either of their backs is very good. Despite arguably league-worst pass protection, the Dolphins' offense is quarterback-centric with no real belief in a sustaining rushing attack. Averaging 10.8 touches a game, expect Miller to stay in that vicinity when the Fins visit Foxboro. Although the Pats are vulnerable to the run since losing NT Vince Wilfork (Achilles') and WLB Jerod Mayo (pectoral), Miller can only be treated as a flex option. Thomas lacks NFL-caliber running skills and remains unworthy of a roster spot in 12-team leagues. ... If Philbin, Sherman, and grasping-at-straws GM Jeff Ireland believe washed-up 34-year-old Ozzie Newsome castoff LT Bryant McKinnie will solve their protection woes, perhaps they're even more removed from reality than we thought. Benched in Baltimore, McKinnie graded out 67th of 75 qualifying offensive tackles across five starts in Pro Football Focus' grades. ... In his two 2012 meetings with Belichick, Tannehill completed a combined 33-of-64 passes (51.6%) for 421 yards (6.6 YPA), no touchdowns, and a pick. There's no real reason to think Tannehill will do better this time around behind a worse offensive line against a much-improved Pats pass defense.

Tannehill's Week 7 target distribution, coming off the bye: Brian Hartline 11, Mike Wallace 10, Brandon Gibson 8, Charles Clay and Miller 3, Thomas 1. ... The Dolphins gave Wallace a $60 million contract in the offseason, but don't use him like a No. 1 receiver. He's just another guy in their vanilla offense, running sideline routes and hoping the line gives Tannehill enough time to throw. On Sunday, look for Wallace to draw Aqib Talib's shadow. Talib has been a true shutdown corner with zero touchdowns allowed since Week 1. ... Belichick will likely be more than happy to let Hartline rack up innocuous possession-type catches because he's no real threat to score touchdowns or burn coverage deep. At least that's what happened in each of these teams' 2012 games, with Hartline leading Miami in receiving (5-84, 5-69) both times. Hartline epitomizes a low-ceiling WR3. ... Clay owners should shake off his Week 7 three-target head scratcher and start him as a back-end TE1 against the Patriots. He's a smooth-moving H-back type who could give New England's sluggish-footed linebackers fits, especially without Mayo. The Pats have allowed the ninth most receptions in the league to tight ends. Clay is the No. 9 overall fantasy tight end.

Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Dolphins 21

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $5,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 8. It's just $5 to join and first prize is $1,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.

Buffalo @ New Orleans

The ankle injury is worsening -- not getting better -- for C.J. Spiller, who looked the worst I've seen him all year in last week's upset of Miami. Spiller had one productive offensive touch among 11, and tapped out of the game after virtually every play that involved him. Clearly, Spiller should not have been out there. If the Bills aren't going to do it, fantasy owners need to sit Spiller until his ankle gets right. He's a high-risk, low-floor flex option in Week 8. ... Although Fred Jackson has been dealing with an MCL injury of his own, he's in line to spearhead a Buffalo run game Sunday that leads the NFL in rushing attempts and squares off with a Saints defense that ranks 22nd versus the run and permits 5.07 yards per carry, the second highest clip in football. F-Jax looms as something of an in-game injury risk, but offers intriguing upside in an attractive matchup where he'll be the foundation of Buffalo's offense. You could argue Jackson is a top-15 running back play this week. ... Tashard Choice is next in line for Bills running-game work. A pedestrian, blocking-dependent 29-year-old back with just three receptions and a 3.60 YPC average on the season, Choice would be an uninspiring fantasy addition. He might be worth a look in 16-team leagues.

Through two starts, Thad Lewis has completed 62.5% of 64 attempts for 418 yards (6.5 YPA), two touchdowns, and a pick while rushing for a third score. He's led Buffalo to an overtime loss to Cincinnati and Week 7 upset win at Miami. Lewis' upside is theoretically capped by the Bills' run-heavy ways, but this game has a chance to produce a healthy dose of scoring at the Superdome versus New Orleans' top-six offense. Lewis is squarely on the two-quarterback-league radar. Bills-Saints has a 49.5-point over-under, fourth highest of Week 8. ... Lewis' target distribution: Stevie Johnson 13; F-Jax and Robert Woods 10; T.J. Graham 8; Scott Chandler 7; Spiller 5; Choice 4; Marquise Goodwin and Chris Hogan 3. ... Keep in mind Johnson missed the first of Lewis' two starts. Although he came away with only 61 yards on six receptions last week, Johnson was clearly Lewis' top read throughout the game and made a handful of spectacular catches over the middle and down the seam. Johnson is back on the WR3 radar against the Saints. ... Woods has been reduced to WR5 value. He's failed to clear 25 yards in each of Lewis' starts. ... New Orleans has allowed the fifth fewest fantasy points to tight ends this season. Chandler is a low-end TE2.

Behind only Peyton Manning in per-game QB scoring, Drew Brees returns from a Week 7 bye to take on Buffalo's 21st-ranked pass defense, a unit that has allowed the most touchdown passes (15) in the league. The Bills are better than that with top CB Stephon Gilmore and FS Jairus Byrd healthy, but this isn't an imposing matchup for the NFC's top passer. Brees has an 8:1 TD-to-INT ratio over his last three games. ... Jimmy Graham (foot) is expected to be inactive or "limited" against Buffalo. You always start Graham if he plays. If not, look for a combination of Marques Colston, Pierre Thomas, and Darren Sproles to pick up the slack. When the Dolphins attempted to eliminate Graham in Week 4, Sproles lit them up for 142 yards and two TDs on 11 touches. Expect Sproles to be a big part of coach Sean Payton's Week 8 game plan. ... Same goes for Colston, whose snaps were down a bit in the three games before New Orleans' Week 7 bye. Colston opened the season as an 82.2% player. He only played 63.3% of the downs in Weeks 4-6. Recommitting to Colston as a featured component would've made sense during the off week for Payton. Graham is banged up now, and the Saints are going to have to find other ways to generate offense. ... If Graham is inactive, Ben Watson will be New Orleans' primary tight end. Watson turns 34 in December and has 12 targets all year. While a red-zone score obviously can't be ruled out for Watson, I'm going to guess Payton used his free time to focus on re-involving Colston rather than a late-career journeyman. Buffalo is allowing the second fewest fantasy points to tight ends.

Mark Ingram still hasn't returned from his Week 2 toe injury, giving Thomas flex value against the Bills' No. 28 run defense. When Ingram has been inactive this season, the back once dorkishly nicknamed "P.T. Cruiser" has averaged 16.5 touches a game with heavy receiving usage. Khiry Robinson will fill the old Chris Ivory/Ingram clock-killing role. ... 14- and 16-team leaguers should give Lance Moore a look if he's available. Not as a Week 8 starter, but as a bench stash in case Graham misses more time than expected or suffers a setback. Moore has resumed practicing fully after an early-season wrist injury. Just keep in mind Moore, rookie Kenny Stills, and Robert Meachem were essentially forming a three-man second receiver rotation behind Colston before Moore went down. So there are no guarantees on his production. ... Moore's return does deflate Stills' Week 8 sleeper balloon. Stills has gone target-less in two of the Saints' last four games, but registered a 3-64-1 line in Week 6, prior to the Week 7 open date. Stills is capable of some fantastic catches. He just doesn't play a big or consistent enough role in the offense to be fantasy viable barring a handful of key injuries. Stills has much more long-range value in Dynasty leagues.

Score Prediction: Saints 27, Bills 21

NY Giants @ Philadelphia

Forced back into the lineup due to Nick Foles' Week 7 faceplant and concussion, Michael Vick will retake the reins of Philly's offense at less than 100%. Vick (hamstring) suggested Wednesday he will probably be closer to "80%" against the G-Men, making him a classic boom-or-bust fantasy QB1. Vick is the No. 6 fantasy quarterback in per-game scoring, taking on a Giants defense that allows the most points per game in the NFC. So the matchup is virtually ideal, and Vick has been a plus QB1 when healthy this year. But he is a 34-year-old injury-prone player who won't be at full strength. Start him at your own high-ceiling, low-floor risk. ... Because Chip Kelly is a run-minded coach in the first place and his quarterback is nursing an injury, look for heavy Week 8 reliance on LeSean McCoy, perhaps even more so than usual. He could push for 30 carries. The Giants held Shady to 46 yards on 20 runs (2.30 YPC) in these clubs' October 6 meeting, but he still totaled 92 yards and executed a goal-line trip. New York is now on the road playing on a short week after last Monday's win over Minnesota. ... Vick's target distribution on the season: DeSean Jackson 42, Jason Avant 25, Riley Cooper 18, McCoy and Brent Celek 15, Zach Ertz 11, Bryce Brown 4.

Shake off Jackson's Week 7 clunker and start him as a legit WR1 against the G-Men. Vick has peppered D-Jax with footballs, including 13 in these teams' Week 5 meeting. ... Celek's somewhat high early-season target totals with Vick are slightly deceptive because he's been losing looks and snaps to rookie Ertz of late. Tight end has not been a heavily targeted position this year in Kelly's offense. Ertz would be a better desperation dice roll than Celek due to superior big-play ability. ... Cooper strung together back-to-back productive games with Foles under center (4-120-1, 6-88). These are Cooper's stat lines in Vick's five starts: 2-14, 2-15-1, 2-29, 2-25, 0-0. Cooper is not and likely never will be a recommended WR3, even against bottom-barrel pass defenses. ... Although Avant is more consistently involved in Kelly's passing game than Cooper and the tight ends, the 30-year-old possession slot receiver lacks upside to surface on 12-team-league radars. Avant has cleared 40 yards in 1-of-7 games this year. He's just barely a top-75 fantasy wideout.

Be it due to poor offensive line play or his own, Eli Manning has consistently failed to deliver worthwhile fantasy production in favorable on-paper 2013 matchups. Manning posted a 1:4 TD-to-INT ratio against Denver's No. 32 pass defense in Week 2. He threw for 200 yards and one score in last week's clash with Minnesota's 29th-ranked group. Eli faced the No. 27 Bears in Week 6 and managed 239 yards with a touchdown and three picks. Manning did drop 334 yards and two TDs on these same Eagles in Week 5, but needed 52 attempts and was intercepted three times. The bottom line is Manning hasn't been a good quarterback this year. He has a great matchup with Philly's No. 31 pass defense, but statistical success isn't assured. ... The Giants' backfield has been even more of a fantasy nightmare, and is at the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of matchup. Philadelphia has quietly played stout defense up front, ranking 12th versus the run with a fairly stingy 3.85 YPC average against. Brandon Jacobs (hamstring) "hopes" to face the Eagles on no practice, but probably won't be 100% if he does, and that's a scary proposition for a washed-up 31-year-old running back. Despite unproductive Week 7 games, Peyton Hillis and Michael Cox figure to remain in the mix. This is an obvious situation to avoid.


Friday Update: Jacobs (hamstring) missed his third straight practice Friday and is listed as doubtful, meaning he won't play against the Eagles. Look for Hillis to be the Giants' primary back with Cox in a lightly-used change-of-pace role. Hillis is worth Week 8 flex-play consideration for desperate PPR leaguers because he'll handle all passing-game work. Neither Giants back is likely to have rushing success against Philly's underrated run defense.

Brandon Myers opened the season as a near-100% player. He's played 64.3% of the snaps over the past two weeks. Over the last month, Myers is averaging one target per game. He's fantasy waiver-wire fodder. ... On a weekly basis, the Eagles' defense gets torched by underneath and crossing routes. Victor Cruz is the likeliest Giants receiver to run those kinds of patterns. Ignore Cruz's three-week scoreless drought and start him as a borderline WR1 at Philly. Cruz has five touchdowns in his last five Eagles games. ... Dropping more balls than ever before and unable to create consistent separation, Hakeem Nicks will remain a boom-or-bust WR3 option this week. Glass-half-full Nicks owners can hang their hats on the 9-142 line he dropped on Philadelphia last time out. Nicks is on pace for 62 catches and 1,075 yards in his contract year. He hasn't scored a touchdown, so perhaps he's due. ... No. 3 receiver Rueben Randle's snap percentage the past two games is 43.4%, but he's still managed to find pay dirt four times over his past three games. Randle's last two stat lines against Philadelphia: 6-96-2, 4-58-2. I'll keep arguing Randle is a risky WR3 because his playing time is so limited in a shaky passing attack, but you can't dispute his attractive matchup and big-play ability. Randle is going to be a star when Nicks moves on.

Score Prediction: Eagles 24, Giants 20

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