Evan Silva


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Matchups: Green Light Vereen

Saturday, November 30, 2013

1:00PM ET Games

New England @ Houston

Remember midseason talk that Tom Brady was "declining"? Not so fast. Now 87 of his last 124 (70.2%) passing for 1,087 yards (8.77 YPA), eight touchdowns, and one pick, Brady is on a tear with his pass-catching corps restored to full health. Although Houston boasts the NFL's No. 1 pass defense on paper, the fact that this game will be played indoors can't be overlooked, and nor can the Texans' 18:4 TD-to-INT ratio against. This isn't nearly the difficult matchup it appears to be. Keep riding Brady to fantasy trophies. He's paying major dividends for owners who stuck with him through so many first-half ups and downs. ... Brady's target distribution since Shane Vereen returned from short-term I.R. two games ago: Vereen 22; Rob Gronkowski 17; Julian Edelman 15; Danny Amendola 13; Kenbrell Thompkins 11; Aaron Dobson 7; Brandon Bolden 1. ... Vereen has been an absolute PPR monster, and his standard-league fantasy value is enhanced by Bill Belichick's distrust of usual early-down bangers Stevan Ridley and LeGarrette Blount for fumbling woes. Vereen is a candidate for 20-plus touches against the Texans' bottom-11 run defense. He's an every-week fantasy starter. ... Houston has been fairly stingy in tight end coverage -- they're 19th in fantasy points allowed to the position -- but matchups don't matter for Gronkowski. With Jimmy Graham facing the Seahawks, Gronk is this week's No. 1 fantasy tight end play. He's played in five games this season, and has at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in four of them.

Edelman and Amendola play similar slot/Z positions and are now working against each other in weekly box scores. Amendola had a big Week 9 game (4-122-1), while Edelman was quiet (1-11). In Week 11, neither did much (3-27, 6-45). Last week, Edelman (9-110-2) went off as Amendola (3-17) took a backseat. Until clarity is established -- and it may never be -- they're both WR3 rolls of the dice. ... The Pats' "X" receiver spot also lacks definition. OC Josh McDaniels is mixing and matching Thompkins and Dobson on a week-by-week basis. Whoever gets the first-team nod Sunday will draw Texans top CB Johnathan Joseph's coverage. I'd view it as a Week 13 fantasy situation to avoid. ... New England's two-down banger role will come down to Bolden, Ridley, or Blount. Ridley and Blount were both benched in last week's comeback win over Denver after losing early-game fumbles. Bolden went on to turn 14 touches into 69 yards and a score. Although I expect Ridley to get another shot sooner rather than later, fantasy owners would be most savvy to put this backfield on a "wait and see" week. If Ridley or Bolden plays well against the Texans, consider it a plus even though they're on your fantasy bench. You'll then know to use whichever one does well in the fantasy playoffs. Ridley still has the most value because he has the most talent. Bolden is a fourth-stringer, and the Patriots have only viewed Blount as a clock-killing back.


Friday Update: Dobson (foot) didn't practice all week and has been ruled out, increasing Thompkins' fantasy start-ability. The matchup is still fairly difficult, but Thompkins should be a full-time player at X receiver playing indoors in a Brady-quarterbacked offense. I can think of many worse WR3 rolls of the dice.

Although this game's high-scoring potential and indoor environment keep Case Keenum on the two-quarterback-league radar, his QB1 streamer shine has evaporated as defenses have caught on to Keenum's act. He simply can't identify blitzes, a weakness of which defensive-minded Belichick has surely taken note. Keenum has completed just 32 of his last 62 attempts (51.6%) for 346 yards (5.58 YPA), one touchdown, and two interceptions. It's a two-plus game stretch. ... The Texans would have a lot better chance to stay competitive by attacking New England's defense on the ground, rather than through the air. As game watchers of Sunday Night Football are well aware, the Patriots' defensive front can be moved off the football, primarily due to injury depletion. New England is 31st in run defense and coughs up 4.49 yards per carry, the seventh most generous average in the league. Ben Tate's Week 12 clunker makes him a less-than-confident play, but he's still more likely to bounce back this week than not. He's a risky RB2/flex. ... The Texans tried riding the "hot hand" in last week's Jaguars game, giving UDFA Dennis Johnson 15 touches to Tate's 12. Coach Gary Kubiak issued a public vote of confidence in Tate this week, and he will be a superior Week 13 fantasy bet than Johnson. Johnson's fantasy value has risen, but he remains more of a lottery-ticket stash/handcuff than standalone flex, even in this plus matchup.

Keenum's 2013 target distribution: Andre Johnson 45; Garrett Graham 36; DeAndre Hopkins 25; Tate 17; DeVier Posey 16; Lestar Jean and Johnson 3. ... Belichick's defense has historically had a knack for eliminating the opposition's top weapon, though taking away Johnson will be harder with top CB Aqib Talib's hip clearly still bothering him. Talib was in and out of last Sunday night's win over Denver. It is notable that Johnson and Talib squared off in December last year. Johnson won the battle, racking up eight catches for 95 yards. I'd start Johnson this week as a low-end WR1. These are Andre's stat lines in Keenum's five starts: 4-89, 9-229-3, 5-37-2, 10-116, 2-36. Despite last week's scoreless, 36-yard game, those are still good odds. ... Mistake-prone rookie Hopkins has turned in back-to-back stat lines of 1-7 and 1-8, getting benched once in the process and dropping two passes. Nothing Hopkins has done this season suggests he would be a viable fantasy WR3 against New England's top-nine pass defense. ... The Patriots are allowing the seventh most receptions in the league to tight ends. They struggle in linebacker coverage. As Houston's target leader in consecutive weeks, Graham is on the TE1/2 borderline in this game.


Score Prediction: Patriots 27, Texans 17

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 13. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the link.

Miami @ NY Jets

The Dolphins head to chilly MetLife Stadium as the NFL's only team yet to exceed 27 points in a single game, and with next to no possibility of fielding a competitive Week 13 run game. Keyed by an unblockable young front three of DEs Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, and NT "Snacks" Damon Harrison, the Jets render opposing rushing offenses weekly non-factors. Since its Week 10 bye, Rex Ryan's defense has stymied Buffalo and Baltimore for 135 yards on 69 runs (1.96 YPC). That is truly suffocating. Lamar Miller's rest-of-season outlook is theoretically trending upward with Daniel Thomas sidelined by torn ankle ligaments, but let's face it: Miller doesn't have a prayer this week. ... If the Dolphins are going to move the ball in this seemingly sure-to-be low-scoring affair, it'll absolutely have to be through the air. Due to a shortage of outside-edge rushers and poor secondary play, the Jets rank 23rd versus the pass with a 20:6 TD-to-INT ratio allowed to enemy quarterbacks. Especially burnable deep, the Jets have served up 12 passing plays of 40-plus yards, the third highest number in football. I think Ryan Tannehill is worth a long look as a two-quarterback-league starter. He wouldn't be on my preferred list of QB1 streamers.

Tannehill's target distribution since Brandon Gibson tore his patellar tendon: Mike Wallace 39; Rishard Matthews 37; Brian Hartline 35; Charles Clay 30; Miller 15; Michael Egnew 6. ... As alluded to above, there is reason to believe Wallace can build on last week's 5-127-1 game against the Jets' porous secondary. Throw in Antonio Cromartie's troublesome hip injury and Wallace is a boom-or-bust WR3 whom the matchup suggests is more likely to boom. ... Overpaid Hartline cleared 70 receiving yards in Week 12 against Carolina for the first time since the season opener. Hartline can be safely dropped for higher-ceiling bench stashes in 12- and 14-team leagues. He hasn't hit pay dirt since Week 3. ... Mathews has a plus on-paper matchup against Jets CB Kyle Wilson in the slot, but his Week 10 shredding of Tampa Bay's defense (11-120-2) is shaping up as a one-hit wonder. Mathews' other stat lines since the Gibson injury are 2-24, 4-52, and 3-2. Aim higher. ... If Wallace is the best fantasy bet among Miami pass catchers in Week 13, Clay is next up. The Jets are allowing the eighth most fantasy points in the league to tight ends. Clay has at least seven targets in three straight games. He's a low-end TE1 this week.

With Geno Smith hitting rock bottom and Chris Ivory nursing an ankle injury, the Jets' offensive outlook is in the gutter as it gets set to take on a Miami defense allowing the tenth fewest points in the league. Even if Ivory ends up playing, I wouldn't feel comfortable starting him in a fantasy league considering his durability track record and lack of effectiveness when attempting to play hurt. ... If Ivory does not play, Bilal Powell will be worth discussion as a Hail Mary flex. Over its last five games, Miami's run defense has allowed 674 yards and five TDs on 151 carries (4.46 YPC) to enemy tailbacks. If Ivory does play, Powell won't be a Week 13 option. ... Geno could be facing the last-ranked pass defense in the NFL this week and still wouldn't be a two-quarterback-league starter. He is playing that poorly. There were indications from Jets brass during the practice week that Matt Simms handled some first-team reps. I expect Smith to be on a short in-game leash until he snaps out of his funk. And he may not.


Friday Update: After early-week indications that Ivory had a high ankle sprain, he went on to practice in some form every day this week, and received a probable tag on Friday's injury report. I wrote previously I would "write him off" as a Week 13 fantasy option. But I feel a lot better about Ivory based on the way the week transpired. He's still a bit of a risky flex play, but I wouldn't be at all opposed to starting him against a below-average Miami run defense. Powell is not in the fantasy discussion this week.

Geno's target distribution since Santonio Holmes returned from a hamstring injury two weeks ago: Santonio 12; Stephen Hill 8; David Nelson 6; Powell and Kellen Winslow 5; Greg Salas and Jeff Cumberland 4; Tommy Bohanon 2; Ivory 1. ... Jeremy Kerley is tentatively expected back from his elbow dislocation this week, further muddying New York's pass-catching corps. Holmes would be the best bet and I still couldn't bring myself to trust him. Using usual LCB Brent Grimes to match up with opposing No. 1 wideouts more often in recent games, the Fins have contained Vincent Jackson (3-28), Keenan Allen (3-45), and Steve Smith (5-69) in consecutive weeks. So this isn't a great matchup for Santonio. ... The rest of the receiving crew is a low-upside crapshoot. Winslow and Cumberland are rotating tight ends. Nelson, Kerley, Hill, and Salas will fight for scraps behind Holmes. Avoid.


Friday Update: Coach Rex Ryan hinted Friday that Kerley (elbow) will not play against the Dolphins, and Holmes is now a game-time decision after missing practice with a hamstring injury. So the Jets' Week 13 receiver committee could be comprised of Nelson, Salas, Hill, and Wildcat specialist Josh Cribbs. I suppose I'd take my chances on Nelson among them, and wouldn't feel the least bit good about it.

Score Prediction: Jets 17, Dolphins 14

Tampa Bay @ Carolina

The Bucs and Panthers tangled on Week 8 Thursday Night Football, with Carolina triumphing 31-13 in a dominant effort, in Tampa. Although the Buccaneers are playing much better lately -- they are on a three-game win streak with respectable victories over Detroit, Miami, and Atlanta -- there is nothing suddenly imposing about Cam Newton's Week 13 matchup. Dating back to Week 6, the Bucs have been picked apart by Nick Foles, receiver-depleted Matt Ryan (twice), Newton, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, and Matthew Stafford for a combined 156-of-239 passing (65.3%), 1,787 yards (7.48 YPA), and a 17:9 TD-to-INT ratio, with three more scores on quarterback runs. During Carolina's seven-game win streak, Cam is 135-of-210 (64.3%) for 1,468 yards and an 11:4 TD-to-INT ratio with four additional rushing touchdowns. Lock in Newton as an elite QB1. ... Cam's target distribution during the seven-game streak: Steve Smith 55; Brandon LaFell 43; Greg Olsen 37; Ted Ginn 31; DeAngelo Williams 19; Mike Tolbert 15; Jonathan Stewart 4. ... With Darrelle Revis (groin) hobbling toward a game-time decision, the Bucs are likely to revert to a zone-heavy secondary with rookie Johnthan Banks, burnable slot CB Leonard Johnson, and street free agent-type Michael Adams forming their sub-package defense. Averaging nine targets and 62 yards per game over the last month, Smith is a low-ceiling but respectable WR3 option with an increasingly favorable matchup.

Olsen is the No. 3 fantasy tight end over the past five weeks, behind only Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Olsen is fairly touchdown dependent, but his matchup isn't a negative versus a Bucs defense permitting the 15th most fantasy points to tight ends. ... LaFell has hit the 60-yard mark in 2-of-11 games this season. He isn't worth rostering in 12-team leagues no matter what happens on Sunday. I guess he might be worth grabbing if Smith got hurt. ... Ginn led Carolina in Week 12 targets against the Dolphins. That didn't work out, as Ginn dropped a wide-open bomb and pathetically turned his ten looks into 11 yards. Don't expect that treatment again. ... The Panthers' fantasy quagmire of a backfield takes on Tampa Bay's top-nine run defense in Week 12. Good luck trying to sneak production out of this nightmare. Since Stewart returned from PUP four games ago, here are the snap counts of each Carolina back: Tolbert 154; Williams 103; Stewart 75. Here are their touch totals: Williams 44; Stewart 37; Tolbert 24. There's a decent chance one of them will score a touchdown against Tampa Bay. I have no idea who it will be.


Friday Update: Williams (quad) wound up missing practice each day this week, making Stewart and Tolbert more interesting Week 13 flex options. It is notable, however, that both Tolbert (knee) and Stewart (ankle) turned in limited repetitions on Thursday and Friday. So they don't seem to be 100% either. If Williams is inactive Sunday and Stewart plays, I'd like the latter as a bit of a Hail Mary flex play. Stewart's scoring potential would still be capped by red-zone vulture Tolbert's presence.

The cute little Bucs have three wins in a row and are playing hard for Greg Schiano, much to their forward-thinking fans' chagrin. The rubber meets the road Sunday at Carolina, where the host Panthers boast the NFL's No. 1 defense in points allowed and rank No. 3 in yards. Mike Glennon is 144 of his last 224 (64.3%) passing for 1,589 yards (7.09 YPA) and a 12:2 TD-to-INT ratio. He's been the NFL's best rookie quarterback this year, and it isn't even close. And in this matchup, he isn't more than a low-end QB2. ... Week 11 breakout star Bobby Rainey got stifled by Detroit's top-four run defense last Sunday, and this week takes on Carolina's top-three group. View Rainey as a matchup-based flex option. He's a good little back with decisiveness and quick feet at the second level, but he needs to get past the first level for his strengths to show. That happened against the Falcons. It didn't happen against the Lions, and is unlikely to resume happening again versus a Panthers defense that's even better than Detroit's. It doesn't help that Tampa is barely using Rainey in the pass game. ... Glennon's 2013 target distribution: Vincent Jackson 87; Tim Wright 40; Brian Leonard 27; Tiquan Underwood 24; Chris Owusu 7; Rainey 4.

V-Jax is the focus of defenses on a weekly basis and plays with a rookie quarterback. So inconsistency is inevitable. He's still worth starting every week because he is heavily targeted and has dominant ability. He's a boom-or-bust WR2 against a Carolina defense Jackson touched up for five catches and 79 yards on 13 targets in these clubs' Week 8 meeting. ... Underwood has started four games since Mike Williams landed on I.R., registering box-score lines of 2-29-1, 3-64, 1-20, and 3-108-2. Last week's mammoth effort is likely to prove an outlier. Underwood had 47 yards on three grabs in Week 8. ... Wright is Tampa's No. 2 pass-game option. Carolina is just 21st in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but Wright remains on the streaming TE1 radar. He dropped a 5-48-1 number on the Panthers five weeks ago. ... The Bucs are otherwise devoid of fantasy contributors. Leonard is averaging five touches for 22 yards over his last two games.

Score Prediction: Panthers 23, Bucs 14

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