Evan Silva


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Matchups: Russell on Fire

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Arizona @ Jacksonville

Arizona emerged from its bye week committed to a timeshare backfield with Rashard Mendenhall operating as BenJarvus Green-Ellis West and Andre Ellington as Gio Bernard. Despite the fact that Ellington has outplayed Mendenhall by a wide margin on a weekly basis, the former handled 13 touches in last Sunday's win over Houston compared to the latter's 14. Ellington played 31 snaps; Mendenhall 28. After the victory, coach Bruce Arians insisted that was "plenty" of work for his explosive rookie. Arians' unwillingness to promote Ellington into a featured role keeps him in flex territory rather than the high-ceiling RB2 Ellington could be on 20 touches a game. Ellington remains an attractive Week 11 fantasy option against the Jaguars' No. 32 run defense. Jacksonville allows 4.64 yards per carry, the fifth highest clip in the league. ... Mendenhall has managed 198 yards on his last 75 carries (2.64 YPC). Ellington has averaged 7.19 YPC this year. Mendenhall will pay off as a flex start against the Jaguars if and only if he scores on a goal-line plunge. He's hit pay dirt twice over his last six games. ... Finally finding something a groove after a slow start in Arizona, Carson Palmer has completed 49 of his last 68 throws (72.1%) for 533 yards (7.84 YPA), five touchdowns, and two interceptions. He's taken four sacks the past two weeks, which qualifies as a win behind Arizona's sieve-like offensive line. Palmer's low ceiling is generally limited to two-quarterback leagues, but you could do worse for a QB1 streamer in Week 11. The Jaguars have an 18:4 TD-to-INT against and rank dead last in sacks. Like pretty much all NFL passers, Palmer does his best work in clean pockets. He should have them Sunday.

Palmer's target distribution during the Cards' two-game winning streak: Larry Fitzgerald 13; Andre Roberts 10; Ellington, Michael Floyd, and Rob Housler 6; Jaron Brown and Jim Dray 2; Jake Ballard and Mendenhall 1. ... Off the injury report and as healthy as he's been since Week 1, Fitz will look to shake off his Week 10 clunker (3-23-0) in the coverage of journeymen RCB Alan Ball and slot CB Will Blackmon. Blackmon has played well this year; Ball not so much. 26th in fantasy wideout scoring, Fitz is a solid WR2 against the Jags. ... Arians talked up Housler this week after his most productive box score (4-57-1) of the year. Housler has been frustratingly inconsistent -- he's been held to 32 or fewer yards in 5-of-7 appearances -- but Jacksonville has allowed the second most fantasy points to tight ends, giving Housler some TE1 streamer appeal. ... Floyd (shoulder) returned to practice on Thursday, which suggests he's on track to play against the Jaguars. Floyd's shoulder sprain was still serious enough to prevent him from finishing last week's game, and Roberts stepped up to pace Arizona in Week 10 receiving (5-72-1). Until clarity is reestablished at the Cardinals' No. 2 receiver position, I'd hold off on starting Floyd or Roberts. In all likelihood, however, Floyd will resume No. 2 pass-game duties at Jacksonville.

Chad Henne played so poorly in the Jaguars' first win of the season last week that coach Gus Bradley had to give him a post-game public vote of confidence. Clearly not a starting-caliber QB, Henne has only been mildly productive this season in garbage-time mode. He didn't get any of it against the Titans and may not get much of it at home versus 4-5 Arizona. Henne is not a top-24 quarterback option in Week 11. ... Henne's target distribution since Justin Blackmon's year-ending suspension: Marcedes Lewis 6; Maurice Jones-Drew, Mike Brown, and Cecil Shorts 4; Jordan Todman and Ace Sanders 1. ... Lewis could be a sneaky FanDuel play. He's as cheap as it gets and Arizona's defense has allowed the most fantasy points to tight ends. Lewis would be a Hail Mary TE1 streamer. ... Expected to draw Patrick Peterson in coverage all day long, Shorts should be viewed as a WR3. Shorts has been a garbage time-dependent fantasy commodity, and on top of drawing a difficult matchup, there are no guarantees he'll get much pass-happy comeback mode versus Arizona. ... Brown has a more attractive Week 11 matchup versus burnable Cardinals LCB Jerraud Powers, but is a low-end WR3 option after disappointing in last week's box score (2-40). ... Jones-Drew isn't winning any fantasy titles this year, but is seeing enough volume and passing-game involvement nowadays to be worth firing up as a low-end RB2/flex, even against Arizona's No. 3 run defense. Jones-Drew has handled at least 22 touches in three of his last four games.

Score Prediction: Cardinals 21, Jaguars 16

Oakland @ Houston

It happened again. For his third straight start, Case Keenum opened a game blazing hot before petering out in the second half as his opponent dialed up a bevy of blitzes in last week's loss at Arizona. Keenum is still learning how to deal with manufactured pressure, but his aggressiveness-athleticism combo gives him borderline QB1 appeal in plus matchups like this. Shredded in the air because they lack edge rushers and are rag-tag in the secondary, the Raiders rank 22nd versus the pass with an 18:6 TD-to-INT ratio allowed to enemy signal callers. They're 31st in completion rate permitted (67.6%) and fourth worst in passer rating against (102.5). Perhaps defenses will eventually "figure out" that Keenum simply can't function under pressure, but I'd bet against him bottoming out this week. Through three appearances, he has a 7:0 TD-to-INT ratio, 274 passing-yard average, and 49 rushing yards. ... Keenum's target distribution: Andre Johnson 31; DeAndre Hopkins 21; Garrett Graham 17; DeVier Posey 12; Ben Tate 10; Lestar Jean 3; Dennis Johnson 1. ... Andre's stat lines in Keenum's starts: 4-89, 9-229-3, 5-37-2. As Keenum is willing to throw the ball up for grabs in tight coverage, Johnson's touchdown production has taken off. (Matt Schaub would never do that.) 8.2% of Johnson's career TD catches have come in Keenum's last two starts. ... Hopkins has a plus matchup versus struggling Raiders LCB Mike Jenkins, who has allowed a touchdown in each of the last two games and rates 86th-of-106 in Pro Football Focus' cornerback grades. Hopkins's ceiling is limited as Johnson's second fiddle, but he's a viable WR3.

Graham continues to be a major fantasy disappointment in the absence of Owen Daniels, who won't return from a non-displaced fibula fracture before Week 14. Graham's stat lines in his five starts since Daniels' injury: 3-15; 2-25; 3-38; 4-46; 2-18. No touchdowns. ... 2012 third-round pick Posey is handling third wideout duties in Houston. Without a score or game above 42 yards on the season, Posey is more of a real-life than fantasy contributor. ... I realize the box scores may tell a different story, but Tate looked an awful lot better in last week's loss to the Cardinals than he did the Sunday night before against Indy. No longer running to avoid contact, there were flashes of the old power-back Tate in the desert. He was also more involved in the passing game and upped his snap percentage from 71.0 to 78.3. If Tate can maintain durability playing through four cracked ribs, he'll have stretch-run RB2 potential. View Tate as a low-end RB2/flex in this difficult matchup with Oakland's top-seven run defense. ... Dennis Johnson remains a recommended lottery-ticket stash as next man up behind a playing-hurt starter, but is just a change of pace for now. Johnson also didn't help his playing-time cause by blowing a blitz pickup that got Keenum crunched against Arizona. Undrafted rookie Johnson has gained 57 yards on 13 touches over the last two games.

Either trotting out UDFA rookie Matt McGloin or banged-up Terrelle Pryor (MCL) at quarterback this week, the Raiders a virtual lock to lean on the run game. They're a run-first club in the first place, ranking 11th in the NFL in rushing attempts and 29th in passes. Even if Rashad Jennings isn't a great bet for a touchdown -- he's scored once all year -- Darren McFadden's (hamstring) every-down back replacement is set up for heavy volume. In the four games this year where McFadden has either suffered an early injury or missed altogether, Jennings has averaged 19 touches for 110 yards. Now taking on Houston's middling, 16th-ranked run defense, Jennings is a mid-range to high-end RB2. ... Raiders OC Greg Olson continued his refusal to make Marcel Reece a big part of Oakland's offense in terms of touches last week. With McFadden inactive, Reece didn't receive a single carry, catching 3-of-3 targets for 30 yards. Reece remains a change-up back and situational lead blocker, leaving him bereft of flex value.


Friday Update: Raiders beat writers universally emerged from Friday's practice anticipating McGloin will start at quarterback after Pryor was observed going through drills at less than half speed. Facing the top-rated pass defense in football, Oakland pass catchers can't be trusted against the host Texans in Week 11 fantasy lineups.

Over his last four games, Pryor is 61-of-120 passing (50.8%) for 714 yards (5.95 YPA) and a 1:8 TD-to-INT ratio. He's taken 18 sacks. Playing hurt and regressing, it's fair to wonder if Pryor will have a short leash at Houston in the event he does start. The Texans rank No. 1 in pass defense and are holding enemy quarterbacks to the NFL's fifth stingiest completion rate (56.8%). The Raiders' QB situation should be avoided in Week 11 fantasy lineup decisions. ... Here is Pryor's 2013 target distribution just in case he starts and you're desperate enough to gamble on a Raiders pass catcher: Denarius Moore 59; Rod Streater 42; Mychal Rivera 23; McFadden and Reece 17; Jennings 16; Brice Butler 13; Jacoby Ford 11. ... Moore and Streater are Oakland's lone fantasy-viable pass catchers, and I wouldn't want to play either in such a difficult matchup with major quarterback uncertainty. In 20 Week 9 snaps off the bench against Philadelphia, McGloin went 7-of-15 for 87 yards. In four preseason appearances, he went 20-of-35 (57.1%) for 279 yards, two touchdowns, and three interceptions with a fumble lost. In fantasy leagues, I'd rather bet on the Texans' defense than any member of the Raiders' passing game this week.

Score Prediction: Texans 24, Raiders 17

4:05PM ET Game

San Diego @ Miami

The Week 10 performance of San Diego's entire passing game was a disappointment because the Chargers fired up 35 runs compared to 29 passes and spread the wealth among seven pass catchers, none of whom topped 62 yards. It's not a sign of things to come. The Bolts are playing top-four passing offense and Philip Rivers leads the NFL in completion rate (71.6%). Only Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Tony Romo, and Matthew Stafford have thrown more touchdown passes than Rivers' 18. Now taking on Miami's middling 16th-ranked pass defense, Rivers is a top-eight QB1, though I'd play Robert Griffin III and Nick Foles over him this week. Miami is limiting enemy signal callers to a 10:12 TD-to-INT ratio and 76.1 passer rating, the seventh lowest in football. ... Rivers' target distribution over his last six games: Antonio Gates 52; Keenan Allen 49; Danny Woodhead 42; Vincent Brown 33; Eddie Royal 26; Ladarius Green and Ryan Mathews 7. ... Gates has an appetizing matchup versus a Dolphins defense allowing the seventh most fantasy points to tight ends. Gates is the No. 7 fantasy tight end this year. ... Allen runs most of his pass routes against right cornerbacks and should get the better of Fins RCB Nolan Carroll. The Dolphins do not move LCB Brent Grimes around to shadow opposing No. 1 wideouts. Lock in Allen as a WR2. ... Expect Brown to get the Grimes treatment on Sunday afternoon. Having cleared 50 yards in just one game all season, Brown is waiver-wire fodder in 10- and 12-team leagues.

Dolphins OLBs Koa Misi and Philip Wheeler are poor in pass coverage; Wheeler is 34th-of-35 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus' 4-3 outside linebacker cover grades. With five touchdowns over his last six games and a respectable 77 total-yard per-game average during that span, Woodhead is an RB2 in PPR and locked-in standard-league flex. ... Royal has seven touchdowns this season because the Bolts call a lot of screens and rub routes for him in the red zone, but he's averaging 37.6 receiving yards per game over the past seven weeks. He'll burn a hole in your fantasy lineup if you start him and he doesn't score. ... Miami has been gutted by Patriots, Bucs, and Bengals tailbacks for 441 yards and five TDs on 96 carries (4.59 YPC) the past three weeks. Now playing on a short week following last Monday night's heartbreaking loss to Tampa Bay, the Fins present an intriguing matchup for Mathews. With 305 yards and two touchdowns on his last 64 runs (4.77 YPC), Mathews is performing at a high level and shouldn't have trouble paying off as a flex if the Chargers grab a lead. Mathews' downfall is his lack of passing-game involvement. On the off chance Miami controls this game, Mathews will wind up spending long stretches on the bench.

So much for the Dolphins' Weeks 8-9 commitment to the run. Overmatched OC Mike Sherman abandoned his rushing attack entirely in last Monday's embarrassing loss to the previously 0-8 Bucs, firing off 44 Ryan Tannehill dropbacks compared to 14 runs as a team. It isn't just the committee with Daniel Thomas that sporadically torpedoes Lamar Miller's fantasy weeks; it is Sherman and coach Joe Philbin's willingness to disown their run game at the drop of a hat. Miller has plus talent and a favorable matchup with San Diego's 20th-ranked run defense, but his usage is beholden to the incalculable whims of his pass-oriented playcallers. Miller is just a flex option. I'd play Ryan Mathews over him this week. ... Further damaging the outlook of both Miller and Thomas is Miami's O-Line depletion following the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin fiasco. The Fins were dominated in the trenches by a middle-of-the-road Bucs front four in Week 10. Thomas is waiver-wire material. ... The Chargers present an ideal matchup for Tannehill because they lack pass rushers to expose his expansion-level pass protection and can't cover in the back end. LCB Shareece Wright has been a disastrous first-year starter and free-agent flop RCB Derek Cox is now getting benched on a weekly basis. I don't think it's crazy to consider Tannehill as a FanDuel start or QB1 streamer. He won't get a weaker defense the rest of the way.

Tannehill's target distribution since the Dolphins' Week 6 bye: Mike Wallace 35; Brian Hartline 30; Rishard Matthews 25; Charles Clay 22; Miller 13; Michael Egnew 5; Thomas 4. ... The one smart thing Sherman did in Tampa was attack struggling slot CB Leonard Johnson with Matthews, who recorded career highs in catches (11), targets (14), yards (120), and touchdowns (2) in the 22-19 loss. Mathews is on the 14- and 16-team league radar now, but he's not trustworthy in standard settings. He'd never reached 50 yards in a game before Week 10. ... Wallace has been and will continue to be a boom-or-bust WR3 play, but I like his chances of booming against whipping-boy Wright in this game. ... Matthews' emergence -- assuming it continues even at 60% of last week's production -- is going to hurt Hartline and Clay. Hartline is a strict possession receiver dependent on running high-percentage routes. Matthews is also a high-percentage route runner in the slot. I'd write off Hartline as a WR3 option this week. ... The Dolphins oddly scaled back Clay's passing-game usage during their Week 6 bye in favor of using him on more short-yardage carries. His targets have been inconsistent and he hasn't scored a touchdown in three games. Clay is fading into low-ceiling TE2 territory. San Diego is 22nd in both catches and yards allowed to tight ends.

Score Prediction: Chargers 24, Dolphins 21

4:25PM ET Games

Green Bay @ NY Giants

Fantasy owners of Andre Brown shouldn't kick themselves for not starting him in Brown's 30-carry return from short-term I.R. Not even Brown himself anticipated that heavy a workload, but he got it due to a combination of Brandon Jacobs' (hamstring) inactivity and Peyton Hillis' early fumble against Oakland. What Brown owners can expect going forward is a legit every-down back role with goal-line carries. Even behind the Giants' disappointing offensive line, Brown has high-end RB2 upside based on volume and touchdown potential. The Packers are playing top-13 run defense, but have been gashed the past two weeks by Matt Forte and LeSean McCoy for a combined 280 yards on 49 carries (5.71 YPC). ... Hillis may stay involved as Brown's "breather" back, but his fantasy window has slammed shut. He's just a low-ceiling handcuff at this stage. ... Jacobs couldn't shake the hamstring woes before picking up a knee injury recently. He can safely be dropped. ... With their run game back on track, look for the Giants to revert to ground-heavy game plans, taking downfield shots off play action. It's a way to get Victor Cruz back on track and limit the punishment Eli Manning has been taking behind a porous front five. Eli does have an attractive enough Week 11 matchup to be viewed as a high-end QB2. Green Bay has allowed enemy passers to pile up a 17:3 TD-to-INT ratio and 99.5 QB rating, fifth highest in the league.

Eli's 2013 target distribution: Cruz 87; Hakeem Nicks 71; Rueben Randle 48; Brandon Myers 39; Hillis 13; Brown 3. ... With Brown's presence setting up vertical bombs, Cruz is the premier buy-low trade target in fantasy football. Cruz owners are surely anxious because he hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 4. With double-digit targets in back-to-back weeks, however, Cruz is far likelier to pick it up than flatline. ... Randle has been and will continue to be a boom-or-bust WR3. He has 50 or fewer yards in 6-of-9 games this season, and 75 or more in the other three. This may sound odd, but I'd actually like Randle better this week if Aaron Rodgers (collarbone) were playing. In that scenario, fantasy owners could hang their hats on a pass-happy shootout. With Scott Tolzien engineering Green Bay's offense, Randle is less appealing. ... Lacking separation skills and scoreless on the year, Nicks is another dice-roll WR3. It's as if his lower-body explosion has vanished. ... Thoroughly ineffective, Myers is being weeded out of the Giants' passing attack. He's been held catch-less in three of his last six games. The Packers have allowed the ninth most fantasy points to tight ends, but it's difficult to even get behind Myers as a desperation streamer.

Down to their third-string quarterback following Seneca Wallace's season-ending groin injury, the Packers will saddle up Eddie Lacy for another high-volume workday in this Week 11 clash with the Giants' No. 11 run defense. Although Lacy is coming off his slowest statistical performance since Week 2 (84 scoreless yards), fantasy owners can bank on his every-down role with 20-plus carries as a virtual lock. Lacy is an RB1. ... The G-Men have been more vulnerable in the air than on the ground this year because they generate little up-front pressure and can't mask glaring back-end deficiencies. While that bodes well for No. 1 passing-game option Jordy Nelson, former Wisconsin UDFA Scott Tolzien would be a stretch in two-QB leagues. Coach Mike McCarthy will attempt to "hide" Tolzien with a foundation power run game and high-percentage throws rather than testing vertically. Green Bay is simply trying to weather the storm and stay competitive until Aaron Rodgers' (clavicle) return, which probably won't happen before Week 13. McCarthy knows their best chance to keep scoring close is to lean on Lacy as opposed to practice squad-type Tolzien. ... This was Tolzien's target distribution off the bench in Week 10: Jarrett Boykin 13; Nelson 9; James Jones 6; Andrew Quarless 4; Brandon Bostick 2; John Kuhn, Lacy, and Myles White 1.

A one-handed bobble cost Nelson a Week 10 touchdown grab as he finished with 56 yards on six catches in Green Bay's loss to Chicago. Make no mistake: Nelson remains an every-week starter and will be the focal point of the passing attack almost every time Tolzien drops back to pass on Sunday. Nelson will resume top-five WR1 value when Rodgers comes back. Until then, he's a WR2. I noticed a lot of anxiety among Jordy's fantasy owners this week. Savvy forward thinkers will take Nelson off his current owners' hands wherever possible, eyeballing Rodgers' return and fantasy trophies. ... Boykin's targets from Tolzien are likelier than not to prove deceiving because they'd formed something of a rapport on the second-team offense, and Tolzien is now practicing with the ones. I wouldn't want to trust Boykin in spite of last week's box score. He's a dicey WR3. ... The best way to view Jones is as a touchdown-dependent fantasy bet. With Tolzien at the helm, Green Bay's offense won't be able to support more than one or perhaps two fantasy-viable pass catchers. I'd play Jones over Boykin, but he's another shaky WR3. ... Change-of-pace back James Starks is useful to the Packers because he's capable of gaining blocked yards when Lacy needs to catch his breath. Starks lacks fantasy usefulness as more than a Lacy handcuff.

Score Prediction: Packers 21, Giants 20

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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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