Matchup: Ravens @ LionsMonday, December 16, 2013
Monday Night Football
Baltimore @ Detroit
Making his 2013 season debut in last week's thrilling win over Minnesota, Dennis Pitta instantly reasserted himself as a locked-in fantasy TE1 by playing 36 snaps and securing 6-of-11 targets for 48 yards and a touchdown. Expect Pitta's snap count to rise into the 50s against a Detroit defense allowing the seventh most receptions to tight ends. Keep in mind Pitta was headed for a monster contract year before fracturing and dislocating his hip in July. Per Matt Vensel of the Baltimore Sun, Joe Flacco "locked into Pitta during OTAs, sometimes too much." ... Although the arrow is pointing up on his two-QB-league value with Pitta back, Flacco hasn't been productive enough this season to warrant confident QB1 streamer start-ability. Flacco is 18th in fantasy quarterback scoring. The Lions' defense has 11 sacks over its last three games and has limited enemy signal callers to 21-of-42 passing (50%) for 318 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions the past two weeks. Those games, admittedly, occurred in Philly's snowstorm and against Matt Flynn. Flacco is a high-end QB2 in this domed game. ... Here is Flacco's target distribution since Baltimore's Week 8 bye: Torrey Smith 49; Jacoby Jones 32; Ray Rice 28; Marlon Brown 26; Ed Dickson 22; Dallas Clark 13; Pitta and Tandon Doss 11; Deonte Thompson 8; Brandon Stokley 5. ... With Pitta in the lineup last week, Clark was a healthy scratch. Dickson is now able to focus on blocking.
Smith has 70-plus yards and/or a touchdown in five of his last six games and is worth teeing up as a high-ceiling WR2 indoors against a Lions defense that's been generous to No. 1 receivers all year. Shake off last week's 1-11 clunker and start Smith at Detroit. ... Inconsistent complementary receivers, Jones and Brown are capable of playing productively in given games, but their week-to-week roles and stats are too unreliable for fantasy playoffs usage. ... Prior to getting dismantled by LeSean McCoy last Sunday, Detroit had held enemy backs to 228 scoreless yards on 108 carries (2.11 YPC) over its previous six games. One rough week doesn't suddenly make the Lions an attractive opponent for Rice and Bernard Pierce. Rice's workloads are stable enough that he's a formidable flex play at Ford Field, but he'd be a weak RB2 behind poor blocking and averaging 2.97 yards per carry on the season. The Lions still rank No. 6 in run defense. ... Pierce has been among the most disappointing second-year players in the league, failing to find running room en route to a 2.74 YPC average. That's down over two full yards from his rookie-season clip (4.93).
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A vicious snowstorm torpedoed Detroit's passing offense in Week 14, but the Lions return home to their dome for fantasy semifinals week at full strength or close to it. After last Sunday's pre-game setback with his calf strain, Reggie Bush is on track to start against Baltimore's No. 8 run defense. Although the matchup is difficult on paper, Bush has gained 428 yards on his last 82 rushing attempts (5.22 YPC) and registered 100-plus total yards and/or a touchdown in seven of his 11 appearances this season. He's an every-week RB1. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported early Monday that the Lions anticipate Bush handling his normal snaps and touches against the Ravens. ... Although Peyton Manning's seven-TD opener skews their stats a bit, the Ravens' defense has been slightly softer against the pass than on the ground. The Baltimore secondary is particularly vulnerable deep, allowing 40 completions of 20-plus yards and an NFL-high 16 passes of 40 yards or more. Challenging vertically just so happens to be cannon-armed Matthew Stafford's bread and butter. Shake off last week's fumble-filled clunker in the snow and start Stafford as an elite QB1 Monday night. ... Stafford's target distribution in Nate Burleson's six 2013 starts: Calvin Johnson 59; Burleson 42; Joique Bell 33; Bush and Kris Durham 23; Brandon Pettigrew 22; Joseph Fauria 8.
Aside from his 7-77-1 line in Week 12 against a Bucs defense that gets shredded weekly by slot receivers, Burleson has been a disappointment in his three games back. His other two box scores read 0-0 and 2-18. Burleson is a 32-year-old possession receiver who doesn't warrant the benefit of the doubt. He's an unappealing WR3. ... The snowstorm helped limit Megatron to three catches for 49 yards in Week 14, and he's still fantasy's clear-cut top receiver. Start 'em. ... Reduced to Detroit's third receiver since Burleson's return, Durham has done nothing to suggest he's even a worthy deep-league fantasy option. He's coming off a catch-less game on three targets. ... The Ravens are 20th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, and tied for second to last in receptions. This is an unfavorable matchup for Pettigrew, who hasn't been a big part of Detroit's pass game all year. Fauria is a touchdown-dependent TE2. Avoid Lions tight ends in the fantasy semifinals.
Score Prediction: Lions 27, Ravens 23