Evan Silva

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Matchups: Russell on Fire

Saturday, November 16, 2013



Minnesota @ Seattle

Sunday's matchup with Minnesota is a cupcake for Russell Wilson. The Vikings have allowed the third most yards and points in football, and rank 29th in pass defense with a league-high 21 touchdown passes allowed. Wilson is a top-five QB1 play in Week 11. Minnesota got torched by Robert Griffin III two Thursdays ago. On fire, Wilson has accounted for ten all-purpose touchdowns over his last four games, with multiple scores in each. ... Since a head-scratching Week 8 decision to limit Marshawn Lynch to eight carries in a near-loss to the Rams, Seattle OC Darrell Bevell has recommitted to his bellcow. Lynch has at least 25 touches in back-to-back games, and has gained 270 yards on his last 45 carries (6.00 YPC). Ride him against Minnesota's No. 17 run defense. ... Wilson's target distribution since Sidney Rice tore his ACL in the second quarter of Week 8: Doug Baldwin 19; Golden Tate 14; Lynch 9; Jermaine Kearse 8; Zach Miller 7; Ricardo Lockette and Luke Willson 2. ... X receiver Tate's playing time and targets will not be affected much by Percy Harvin's (hip) return. Tate plays outside, and Harvin has always primarily been a slot receiver. With three touchdowns and a 76-yard average over his last three games, Tate is an intriguing WR3 versus Minnesota's banged-up, ineffective secondary. The Vikings coughed up a 7-119-1 stat line to Pierre Garcon in Week 10. Like Tate in Seattle, Garcon is Washington's "X" receiver.

Harvin will be on a snap count in his first NFL appearance in over a year, but I like his chances of scoring a touchdown and would strongly consider using him as a WR3 unless I was loaded at receiver. Like Harvin, OC Bevell is formerly of the Vikings' organization. I'd be surprised if he didn't call a red-zone play or two designed for Harvin to score. Harvin will offer stretch-run WR2 upside. ... Baldwin will still see action at Z and slot, but fantasy owners can't expect him to be Seattle's target leader going forward, as he was the past two weeks. With Harvin returning, Baldwin's fantasy arrow is pointing down. He's a low-end WR3 versus Minnesota. ... Jump-ball specialist Kearse will now be fourth through Seattle's wideout rotation. ... The Vikings have allowed the third most fantasy points to tight ends, giving Miller an eye-catching matchup. Miller's production has been putrid throughout 2013 -- he doesn't have a single game over 49 yards --- but he's at least on the streamer radar. ... Each time this season that Seattle has installed its second-team offense at the end of a blowout victory, Christine Michael has been the primary early-down back with Robert Turbin in the third-down/blitz protector role. It happened in Week 3 against Jacksonville, and again in last week's win over Atlanta. This usage continues to indicate Michael would be first in line for first- and second-down carries if Lynch were ever to suffer an injury. Turbin's role would not change. It's why I prefer Michael as a handcuff over Turbin.

The Seahawks rank third in total defense, fourth in points allowed, and second in pass defense. And they are particularly impenetrable at home. So playing any member of Minnesota's Christian Ponder-quarterbacked passing game is not a recommended Week 11 fantasy approach. They'll be bucking the odds if they do something worthwhile in the box score. … Here is Ponder's target distribution on the season, just in case you're desperate enough to roll dice on Jerome Simpson, Greg Jennings, John Carlson, or Cordarrelle Patterson: Jennings 35, Simpson 32, injured Kyle Rudolph 24, Adrian Peterson 20, Patterson and Carlson 18; Jarius Wright 15, Toby Gerhart 7. Best of luck. ... Returning from a long week to rest whatever might have ailed him around midseason, Peterson has 263 yards and four touchdowns on his last 55 carries (4.78 YPC). Over their last three games, the Seahawks have served up 469 yards on 91 carries (5.15 YPC) to Atlanta, St. Louis, and Tampa Bay. The matchup at CenturyLink Field is daunting for Peterson, but hardly impossible as it may have seemed early in the year. He's a top-six RB1.

 

Friday Update: After Simpson's DUI arrest, coach Leslie Frazier stated Friday the Vikings will keep him active against Seattle, but Patterson is expected to start at X receiver. Patterson has a boatload of talent and is worth rostering by receiver-needy owners in 12- and 14-team leagues. He'd be an easier sell as a Week 11 sleeper if Minnesota wasn't facing Seattle's suffocating pass defense.

Score Prediction: Seahawks 27, Vikings 13

San Francisco @ New Orleans

Firing on all cylinders, the Saints enter Sunday's game with at least 26 points in six of their last seven games and ranked No. 2 in the NFL in total offense. New Orleans doused a similar-looking Niners defense with 26 points in these teams' meeting last November, and dropped a 32 spot on DC Vic Fangio's group in January of 2012. Combined, Drew Brees is 66-of-104 (63.5%) for 729 yards (7.01 YPA), seven touchdowns, and four interceptions in his last two 49ers games. San Francisco is playing top-six defense this season, but it's hard to stop a train. ... Brees' target distribution since New Orleans' Week 7 bye: Jimmy Graham and Pierre Thomas 20; Lance Moore 15; Marques Colston 14; Kenny Stills 13; Darren Sproles 12; Robert Meachem 9; Ben Watson 7; Mark Ingram 4. ... Under Fangio, the Niners rarely use bracket coverage or double teams to eliminate the opponent's top gun. They're an our-guys-against-your-guys type of defense. Graham still has a tough matchup -- San Francisco is 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends -- but only Rob Gronkowski is a superior tight end bet in Week 11. Graham (foot) practiced Wednesday, something he didn't do before being limited in last week's win over Dallas. Expect Graham to play more snaps and be more productive than he was in Week 10. ... Colston's post-bye target numbers are skewed because he missed Week 9 with a knee injury. Colston returned against the Cowboys to confirm he isn't "done," ripping off season highs in catches (7) and yards (107), and scoring for the first time since Week 1. His eight targets were a team high. Colston's stat lines in the two aforementioned 49ers meetings: 9-136-1, 4-36-1. He's back in the every-week WR3 mix.

New Orleans has never been this loaded with weapons in the Sean Payton era. To compare the NFL's No. 1 offense, Denver regularly utilizes three receivers, one tight end, and one back. The Saints involve three backs, a target monster tight end, and four wideouts. So inconsistency has been and will continue to be inevitable. ... Slipping down the totem pole, Moore (29) played fewer Week 10 snaps than both Stills (50) and Meachem (33). If you're going to gamble on a Saints wideout behind Colston, Stills is your best bet. ... Sproles lit up Dallas for 88 yards and two scores last Sunday night, and is on pace for 63 catches, 1,021 total yards, and eight touchdowns despite some rough patches. He's an RB2 in PPR and every-week flex in standard leagues. ... Thomas has at least 12 touches in five straight games and was the Saints' clear-cut primary back against Dallas before clock-killing mode. He's a mid-range to high-end flex against San Francisco's top-12 run defense. ... I'd imagine Ingram was snatched off a ton of waivers this week after rushing for a career-high 145 yards against the Cowboys. Be careful. Dallas lost top LB Sean Lee (hamstring) mid-game, and RE DeMarcus Ware (groin) was badly hobbled. 135 of Ingram's yards came in the second half, which the Saints opened with an 18-point lead in the 49-17 rout. I think there's a very good chance that goes down as the best box score Ingram will ever register in a Saints uniform.

Colin Kaepernick entered San Francisco's Week 10 bout with Carolina having registered nine all-purpose touchdowns compared to one interception over his previous five games. Fantasy owners are now acting like the roof caved in after Kaepernick turned in what I thought was a predictably slow game against the Panthers' top-four pass defense, exacerbated by Vernon Davis' second-quarter concussion. It certainly didn't help that Davis, Frank Gore, Mario Manningham (2), and Vance McDonald combined for six drops. Kaepernick remains in the QB1 hunt in spite of last week's stats because Davis is expected to play, and this game offers shootout potential. I'd start Kap over Andy Dalton, Carson Palmer, Alex Smith, Terrelle Pryor, and Josh McCown this week. ... Entrenched as an every-week RB1, Gore has totaled 100 yards and/or scored a touchdown in seven straight games, and gained 640 yards with six touchdowns on his last 132 carries (4.85 YPC). Gore will still be the best means of ball movement San Francisco can offer against New Orleans. The Saints rank 23rd versus the run and are allowing a league-high 5.00 yards per carry. ... Manningham was immediately reinserted as the 49ers' starting X receiver in his Week 10 return from PUP. Targeted six times, Manningham secured three for 30 yards, dropped two, and had the sixth intercepted. He's only worth rostering in 14- and 16-team leagues as a fantasy WR4/5.

Seemingly running out of gas down the stretch of his age-33 season, Anquan Boldin hasn't hit pay dirt since September and has been held under 60 yards in four of his last five games. Just a WR3 option, Boldin will have his hands full Sunday with emerging Saints shutdown CB Keenan Lewis, who held Dez Bryant to one catch last week. ... New Orleans is 30th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but Davis gets a matchup boost if impressive rookie SS Kenny Vaccaro (concussion) can't play. Davis would have an easier time with speed-deficient Roman Harper. ... Gore, Davis, and to a lesser extent Kaepernick and Manningham are the only viable fantasy options in San Francisco's offense. Michael Crabtree could soon change that and is worth rostering in 14- and 16-team leagues. Coach John Harbaugh indicated this week that Crabtree (Achilles', PUP) is nearing a return. He has an outside shot to be a usable WR3 at the tail end of fantasy playoffs.

Score Prediction: Saints 27, 49ers 23

Sunday Night Football

Kansas City @ Denver

Sunday night's division thriller between the 9-0 Chiefs and 8-1 Broncos is not only the real-life game of the week, it has Week 11's second highest over-under at 49.5 points. It's a game to target for fantasy leaguers. ... Dwayne Bowe has been a major to-date fantasy bust because Kansas City lacks high-end quarterback play and Andy Reid has designed his offense to not lose rather than win games. Offensively, the Chiefs don't play to attack. They're likely going to have to attack on Sunday night because Peyton Manning will find ways to score points on their defense. Bowe will play despite his November 10 arrest for marijuana possession, and is worth serious WR3 consideration at Denver. Assuming Alex Smith is willing to throw into tight coverage -- and he'll need to in order to generate passing yards -- Bowe (6'2/224) is physical enough to win against Broncos outside corners Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (6'2/193) and Kayvon Webster (5'11/198). ... With Von Miller heating up following his early-season suspension, the Broncos have limited Washington and San Diego quarterbacks to a combined 39-of-68 passing (57.4%) for 398 yards (5.85 YPA) and a 2:4 TD-to-INT ratio with seven sacks over their last two games. Smith has some QB1 streamer appeal on the basis that this game could get pass happy, but I'd rather start the Broncos' defense than Smith in fantasy. ... Smith's target distribution since tight end Anthony Fasano returned from injury three games ago: Bowe 23; Dexter McCluster 19; Jamaal Charles 18; Donnie Avery 17, Anthony Fasano 9; Anthony Sherman 7; Sean McGrath 4.

Scatback/slot receiver McCluster totaled five yards on three touches in Kansas City's last game, but had been slightly productive in his two previous outings. He's only worth a WR3 look in return-yard leagues. ... On pace for 48 receptions and 704 yards, Avery has cleared 40 receiving yards in just 2-of-9 games this season. Aim higher. ... An every-down player again, Fasano should be on the radar of desperate TE1 streamers. Denver has allowed the fourth most catches and second most yards in the league to tight ends. ... Reid's likeliest game plan remains to ride Charles and hope his defense can at least contain Manning, keeping the game close. Returning from a Week 9 bye to rest his heavily-utilized legs, Charles is on pace for career highs in touches (386), catches (84), touchdowns (15), and total yards (1,981). Charles is an every-down back, so even if Kansas City falls behind on the scoreboard he will rack up receptions and get opportunities to make plays in space. Don't let Denver's No. 4 run defense scare you. Charles is the No. 1 overall fantasy back.

Shutting down Manning is an impractical expectation, but the Chiefs certainly have components on defense to keep Peyton below his typical statistical performance. Not only can Kansas City bring ferocious edge pressure via OLBs Justin Houston and Tamba Hali, and wreck the interior with unblockable NT Dontari Poe, Bob Sutton's defense has personnel to match up with Denver's league-best weaponry. Look for Brandon Flowers to man up with Wes Welker in the slot. Elite cover safety Eric Berry will follow Julius Thomas around the formation. Expect red-hot rookie Marcus Cooper to draw Eric Decker on the majority of Sunday night's snaps, while free-agent gem Sean Smith (6'3/218) does battle with Demaryius Thomas (6'3/229). Manning can generally be locked in for 250-plus yards and a pair of touchdowns. But I wouldn't be surprised if 4-5 quarterbacks around the league outscore him in fantasy this week. ... Although Smith has enjoyed an outstanding first season in K.C., he has been a slightly weak link of late on a defense that doesn't have many of them. Pro Football Focus has charged Smith with at least 100 yards and a touchdown allowed in two of his last three games. Demaryius would be my pick to pace Denver in receiving stats. ... Welker would be a close second. His quickness on high-percentage routes and after-catch ability are more likely than not to give Flowers fits. Shake off Welker's slow Week 10 game at San Diego (3-21) and start him as a WR1/2 against the Chiefs.

Although Berry's coverage has been outstanding this season, Thomas is always a good bet for end-zone trips. Fantasy owners still probably shouldn't expect more than 60 or so yards from Thomas in Week 11. ... The on-paper matchups are difficult, but it would still be irresponsible to discourage starting any of Denver's high-octane skill-position players. While Cooper has been a fantastic find by Chiefs rookie GM John Dorsey, it's entirely possible Peyton decides before the game to pick on the September 1 waiver claim. And that scenario would benefit Decker. ... The Chiefs' defense has shut down some run games this year, and gotten gashed by others. The latter happened in their last game, as C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson combined to douse Kansas City with 193 yards on 28 runs (6.89 YPC). Knowshon Moreno will inevitably get favorable running looks because Peyton always checks into them, and has been extremely productive in the pass game of late. He's on pace for a career-high 66 catches. Fire up Moreno as a borderline RB1 against the Chiefs' No. 24 run defense. ... Montee Ball handled 19 snaps and five carries in last week's win over the Chargers, while C.J. Anderson didn't play a down. It's abundantly clear that Ball is the preferred Moreno handcuff. He just has little or no flex appeal in this particular game.

Score Prediction: Broncos 27, Chiefs 21

Monday Night Football

New England @ Carolina

Coming off his most promising on-field performance of the year followed by a Week 10 bye to hone his rapport with a now-healthy pass-catching corps, Tom Brady will be greeted rudely by a top-four Carolina pass defense that has limited enemy signal callers to a 7:13 TD-to-INT ratio and 75.6 passer rating, the fifth stingiest clip in football. The Panthers are eighth in the NFL in sacks. Brady should be viewed as a locked-in QB1 going forward, but the Week 11 matchup suggests he's not quite back among the top seven or eight fantasy quarterbacks. At least not this week. ... Brady's target distribution since Rob Gronkowski returned three games ago: Gronk 32; Aaron Dobson 21; Julian Edelman 13; Danny Amendola 10; Stevan Ridley and Kenbrell Thompkins 6; Brandon Bolden 5. ... Gronk's matchup doesn't jump off the page -- Carolina is 24th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends -- but his talent and increasing role do. Just a 60.3% player in New England's offense before the bye, expect Gronkowski to get back near 100% the rest of the way. His fantasy arrow is still pointing up. ... Entrenched at "X" receiver, Dobson has the premier on-paper matchup of Patriots pass catchers. He'll run most of his routes against undrafted rookie RCB Melvin White, who was only recently promoted into the starting lineup after Josh Thomas' benching three games ago. With stat lines of 4-60-1 and 5-130-2 over his last two games, Dobson is a WR3 play with upside. ... Lapped by Dobson, Thompkins can be dropped in 12- and 14-team re-draft leagues. Thompkins was a healthy scratch for New England's last game.

A healthy Amendola is an every-week WR3 in standard leagues and WR2 in PPR. He torched the Steelers for 122 yards and a touchdown before the open date and will man the old Wes Welker role going forward. ... Edelman hasn't seen more than five targets in any game since September. These are Edelman's last three stat lines when Amendola has played extensively this season: 1-11, 2-7, 2-35. Scoreless since Week 1, Edelman is a poor WR3 option. ... Ridley has turned his last 82 runs into 393 yards (4.79 YPC) and six TDs. The Patriots' early-down hammer, Ridley has a difficult matchup with Carolina's No. 2 run defense, but has played himself into the must-start RB2 category. ... Shane Vereen's (wrist) expected return will impact Bolden more than anyone else. Vereen will take over Bolden's old "passing back" role -- the job for many seasons handled by Danny Woodhead and Kevin Faulk before him -- and likely handle 8-14 touches per game. Since he hasn't played in over two months, Vereen would be hard to trust in his first game back because he needs to get in football shape. He still has a chance to be a major PPR asset down the stretch. I'd view Vereen as a boom-or-bust flex play on Monday night. ... Averaging just nine snaps and six carries over his last three games, LeGarrette Blount will only see serious playing time against the Panthers if the Patriots blow them out. Blount and Bolden are now waiver-wire fodder.

During Carolina's five-game win streak, Cam Newton has completed 97-of-144 passes (67.4%) for 1,085 yards (7.53 YPA), and a 7:3 TD-to-INT ratio with three more rushing scores. Although matching up with New England's top-12 pass defense makes him more back-end QB1 than top-five quarterback play, Cam's all-purpose production raises his "floor," and there is some potential for this game to evolve into a shootout. New England's defense is depleted. The Patriots have lost NT Vince Wilfork (Achilles'), DT Tommy Kelly (knee), and WLB Jerod Mayo (pectorals) to injured reserve. SS Steve Gregory (thumb) isn't expected to play at Carolina. ... Cam's target distribution during the Panthers' red-hot five-game stretch: Steve Smith 41; Brandon LaFell 30; Greg Olsen 20; Ted Ginn 18; Mike Tolbert 14; DeAngelo Williams 13; Jonathan Stewart 3. ... Smith has the toughest Week 11 matchup in Carolina's pass-catching corps. He'll likely lock horns with Aqib Talib, who's had a smothering effect on opponents' top weapons when healthy this year. Just ask Vincent Jackson (3-34), A.J. Green (5-61), and Jimmy Graham (0-0). Smith isn't a recommended fantasy start. ... Olsen has been held to five targets or fewer in every game during the Panthers' undefeated stretch. The field could still open up for Olsen a bit on Monday night should Talib eliminate Smith. The Patriots have allowed the tenth most receptions in the league to tight ends.

Averaging 44.4 yards per game, LaFell hasn't been on the WR3 radar all season. He could score a touchdown for the first time since Week 6 on Monday night, and still wouldn't be worth adding in 12-team leagues. LaFell is the No. 47 fantasy wideout over the past three weeks. ... Situational deep threat Ginn is a better real-life than fantasy player. Though sporadically dangerous and enjoying a surprisingly efficient year, Ginn has only played 44.8% of Carolina's offensive snaps. ... The Patriots have been vulnerable in run defense since losing Wilfork, Kelly, and Mayo, but the Panthers' three-headed backfield limits the ceilings of DeAngelo Williams, Jonathan Stewart, and Mike Tolbert, and essentially makes their production impossible to forecast week to week. Since Stewart returned from PUP two games ago, here are the snap counts of each Carolina back: Tolbert 80; Williams 49; Stewart 41. Here are their touch totals: Stewart 25; Williams 23; Tolbert 13. If forced to pick from the three as a Week 11 flex, I'd probably lean Tolbert because he is a critical part of Carolina's red-zone offense and the best bet for a goal-line touchdown. Stewart and Williams are plenty capable of turning in fruitful box-score stats, but the fact that those can't be predicted makes them all but worthless in fantasy leagues. D-Will and J-Stew are RB3s at best.

Score Prediction: Patriots 24, Panthers 21



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



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