Evan Silva


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Matchups: All In On Griffin

Friday, December 20, 2013

1:00PM ET Games

Denver @ Houston

Coming off a Thursday night loss to San Diego where they were dominated in time of possession (39:21) -- and genuinely out-coached -- the Broncos head to Houston's domed Reliant Stadium for a favorable-environment game against a soft, downward-spiraling opponent. Over its last three games, the Texans' defense has allowed enemy passers to complete 61-of-101 throws for 683 yards and a 7:2 TD-to-INT ratio. They're hardly sieve-ish stats, but a far cry from Houston's deceptive No. 2 NFL ranking in pass defense. Peyton Manning is an easy call as the premier quarterback play in fantasy finals week. ... Peyton's target distribution since Julius Thomas returned from a knee injury two games ago: Eric Decker 17; Demaryius Thomas and Julius 15; Knowshon Moreno 13; Andre Caldwell 11; Wes Welker 10; Montee Ball 9; Jacob Tamme 7; Joel Dreessen 2. ... Demaryius has at least 100 yards and/or a touchdown in seven of his last eight games. Shake off last week's 4-45-0 hiccup versus San Diego and start Demaryius as an elite WR1 against a Houston defense dealing with a groin injury to top corner Johnathan Joseph. … Decker has lacked the 2013 consistency of his more talented wideout teammate, but maintains weekly blowup potential. He's the No. 10 fantasy receiver on the season and an every-week WR2.

The Texans are 17th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends, but matchups have not mattered for Orange Julius at any point this year. He's scored a touchdown in nine of his dozen appearances. Only Jimmy Graham and Vernon Davis are superior Week 16 tight end plays. ... Wes Welker (concussion) will miss at least one more game, thrusting Caldwell -- not Tamme -- into the Broncos' third receiver role. With Welker inactive in last Thursday night’s loss, Decker saw increased slot snaps while Caldwell played outside opposite Demaryius. Caldwell deserves credit for hanging a 6-59-2 line on the Chargers, but wasn't a full-time player, and I'd be loath to trust him in the fantasy finals with so many other options in Denver's pass-catching corps. He's a high-risk WR3. ... The Texans' 2013 defensive weakness has been on the ground, where they rank 24th against the run and are missing ILB Brian Cushing badly for the second straight year. Moreno returns from an extra-long week to rest whatever's been ailing him and is a borderline RB1 in this game. Ball is much less trustworthy, as his usage is largely tied to blowout wins. With Denver playing from behind for most of the Week 15 Chargers game, Moreno handled 13 touches to Ball's eight. Ball's role isn't reliable enough for flex start-ability.

Denver's defense has been a disappointment for most of 2013, but the reinsertion of Matt Schaub is unlikely to be the shot in the arm Houston needs to capitalize. Over his last six appearances, washed-up Schaub has completed 119-of-194 passes for 1,261 yards (6.5 YPA) and a 3:7 TD-to-INT ratio with 13 sacks taken. In the Texans' quarterback-friendly scheme, Schaub could still pay dividends for two-QB leaguers if the Broncos grab a large early-game lead, increasing garbage-time opportunities. He's just not a QB1 streamer. ... Andre Johnson has been Houston's lone consistent pass catcher this season, averaging a 7-100 stat line with five touchdowns over his last eight games. Schaub's insertion isn't a downgrade to Johnson considering Case Keenum's recent inept play. The NFL's receptions leader (99), Johnson is an every-week WR1 regardless of his quarterback’s identity. ... DeAndre Hopkins has struggled with route running and missed assignments as a rookie. His run blocking has been especially poor. Hopkins is a fantasy WR4/5.

Texans rookie Ryan Griffin is my favorite sleeper of Week 16, and a recommended streamer for owners of Jordan Cameron (concussion), as well as ex-owners of Rob Gronkowski. The Broncos allow the ninth most fantasy points to tight ends, and neither Garrett Graham (hamstring) nor Owen Daniels (fibula) is expected to play. Griffin played 67-of-67 snaps in Houston's Week 15 loss to Indy, securing 6-of-6 targets for 62 yards. Schaub has long favored peppering tight ends in the red zone over Johnson, for whatever reason. Griffin could be another beneficiary should the Texans encounter an early-game deficit. I like Griffin as a cheap FanDuel option and Hail Mary TE1. He led Houston in preseason receptions (14) and goes 6-foot-6, 261 with soft hands. ... The Broncos have coughed up 432 yards and five touchdowns on 91 carries (4.75 YPC) to Kansas City, San Diego, and Tennessee over the past three weeks. With Ben Tate (ribs) shut down, Dennis Johnson is worth a look in flex spots. A poor man's Maurice Jones-Drew at 5-foot-7, 196, Johnson has rushed 37 times this season for 154 yards (4.16 YPC) with six catches. Johnson should be Houston's clear lead back Sunday, with Deji Karim and Jonathan Grimes behind him.

Score Prediction: Broncos 30, Texans 20

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-week $300,000 Fantasy Football league for Week 16. It's $25 to join and first prize is $25,000. Starts Sunday at 1pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

Tennessee @ Jacksonville

I'm guessing there will be a number of fantasy owners who trot out Ryan Fitzpatrick in title week in an attempt to chase last week's volume-augmented stats against Arizona. Fitzpatrick attempted a career-high 58 passes in the 37-34 overtime defeat. The Jaguars don't have a particularly stout pass defense, but expecting a repeat of last Sunday's wild game would be an ill-advised strategy in this projected low-scoring affair. Fitzpatrick is far more two-quarterback-league starter than QB1 streamer. ... Fitz's target distribution this year: Kendall Wright 80; Delanie Walker 50; Nate Washington 47; Chris Johnson 34; Justin Hunter 31; Kenny Britt 16; Michael Preston 6. ... Wright shook off his Week 14 clunker against the Broncos to whip the Cardinals for 12 grabs and 150 yards on 20 targets. The target number is obviously unsustainable, but Wright has been an every-week WR2 in PPR and high-end standard-league WR3 since early in the season. There's nothing about Jacksonville's defense that should discourage owners from locking Wright into championship lineups. ... The Jags allow the second most fantasy points to tight ends, and Walker is the No. 13 overall tight end in fantasy points per game the past five weeks. He's a low-end TE1.

Washington's Week 15 stat line (7-92) was his best since September, but buoyed by Hunter and Damian Williams' inactivity due to violations of team rules. Hunter and Williams will return this week, rendering Washington and Preston non-factors. Beyond Wright, Tennessee's wide receiver corps has been and will remain a crapshoot in Week 16. ... Johnson's matchup looks appealing on paper -- the Jaguars rank 30th in run defense and have allowed the third most rushing touchdowns (17) in the league -- but it's a potential landmine due to Jacksonville's more-stout recent play. Over the past six weeks, the Jaguars have limited this same Tennessee team, Arizona, Cleveland, Houston (twice), and Buffalo to a combined 562 yards on 155 carries (3.63 YPC). In these clubs' Week 10 meeting, Jacksonville held Johnson to 30 yards on 12 carries, though he did catch five balls for 43 yards. I'd like to wish Johnson owners Week 16 luck, because I think they're going to need it.

Jacksonville's offense is in shambles with Maurice Jones-Drew (hamstring) expected to miss his second straight game and Cecil Shorts (groin surgery) officially shut down. The Jaguars will turn back to Jordan Todman at tailback, while Mike Brown and Ace Sanders start at wide receiver and Marcedes Lewis remains the tight end. I guess the third receiver will be Kerry Taylor. With Chad Henne facing a Tennessee defense that ranks top ten against the pass and has surrendered the fewest passing touchdowns (13) in football, I'd write off all Jaguars pass catchers as Week 16 fantasy options. ... The Titans are much more vulnerable on the ground, ranking No. 23 versus the run with the second most rushing TDs (20) allowed in the league. Look for Todman to again serve as Jacksonville's offensive centerpiece after burning Buffalo last week for 153 yards on 29 touches. The Jags' coaching staff clearly doesn't trust No. 2 back Denard Robinson, who played all of nine snaps while clear feature back Todman handled 67. Todman is a high-end flex with some upside. Because he has bounced around the league since the Chargers drafted him in the 2011 sixth round out of UConn, it's easy to forget that Todman was the Big East Offensive Player of the Year the season he declared for the draft and ran a 4.41 forty at the 2011 Combine at 5-foot-9, 203. He excels in the passing game and does not lack NFL-caliber running ability.

Score Prediction: Titans 20, Jaguars 14

Cleveland @ NY Jets

The 40.5-point over-under on Browns-Jets is Week 16’s lowest and still seems generous as both clubs rank among the NFL's bottom six in scoring and top 12 in total defense. Josh Gordon is the obvious premier play. Gordon leads all NFL receivers in standard fantasy points per game (17.3), and is too fast and physical for the Jets' beleaguered secondary. ... Jason Campbell has completed 90 of his last 158 throws (57.0%) for 1,014 yards (6.42 YPA) and a 5:5 TD-to-INT ratio, committing a sixth turnover on a lost fumble. Campbell has generally played better than expected under Norv Turner's tutelage this season, but not well enough lately to trust as anything more than a two-quarterback-league play in the fantasy finals, even against New York's No. 26 pass defense. ... Campbell's target distribution on the year: Gordon 60; Jordan Cameron 36; Chris Ogbonnaya 33; Greg Little 32; Davone Bess 30; Fozzy Whittaker 22; Willis McGahee 5; Edwin Baker 4. ... Cameron (concussion) is expected to miss Week 16, leaving Gary Barnidge and MarQueis Gray to handle tight end snaps. Barnidge is primarily a blocker. He has 11 receptions through 14 appearances. Though not a serious re-draft option, Gray is an intriguing prospect. He played some quarterback for the Minnesota Gophers and has five Wildcat carries for 39 yards this season. Worth a look in Dynasty leagues, Gray ran a 4.68 forty-yard dash at 6-foot-3, 240 during February’s Scouting Combine.

Held to 50 yards or fewer in 11-of-14 games this season, Little would be an extremely tough sell as a WR3 play, even in a plus matchup. The Browns will likely look to upgrade at No. 2 receiver in the offseason. … Bess (14 drops among 86 targets) has been an unmitigated disaster, and it's entirely unclear why he still plays so much. ... Cleveland threw a curveball with its Week 15 backfield, using mid-week practice squad signee Edwin Baker as the lead runner against Chicago instead of Ogbonnaya or Whittaker. Baker totaled 84 yards on 12 touches. The Browns clearly have no commitment to any of the tailbacks on their current roster. With Willis McGahee now medically cleared from his concussion, Cleveland's run game is an obvious fantasy situation to avoid in trophy week against the Jets' No. 3 run defense.

The Jets' No. 30 offense has vanishingly little chance of generating consistent chain movement or scoring chances against Cleveland's No. 8 defense. Only Chris Ivory is worth a look in a flex spot due to his running talent and outstanding recent play. Ivory has gained 543 yards and scored three touchdowns on his last 93 carries (5.84 YPC), but remains a low-ceiling flex option only without a passing-game role against a Browns defense that ranks No. 8 versus the run. ... Geno Smith's target distribution with Jeremy Kerley back in the lineup the past two weeks: Santonio Holmes 13; Kerley 10; David Nelson 8; Kellen Winslow 7; Bilal Powell 5; Jeff Cumberland and Tommy Bohanon 4. ... I could write several more paragraphs on how each of the aforementioned seven players isn't worth starting in Week 16 fantasy lineups, but you already know that. Holmes would be the one receiver with some hope. Browns top cornerback Joe Haden (hip pointer) is not expected to play Sunday, and Cleveland has struggled to slow No. 1 receivers over its last four games. Here are those wideouts' stats: Brandon Marshall 6-95-1; Antonio Brown 6-92-1, Cecil Shorts 6-64-1; Julian Edelman 6-64-1. Holmes played 54-of-63 snaps in the Jets' Week 15 loss to Carolina, leading New York with eight targets. Holmes remains no more than a Hail Mary WR3.

Score Prediction: Browns 17, Jets 14

Miami @ Buffalo

Flying under the radar has been Ryan Tannehill's breakout second season, which has especially picked up over the last month. Finally demonstrating chemistry with $60 million spring acquisition Mike Wallace, Tannehill has completed 100 of his last 152 throws (65.8%) for 1,146 yards (7.54 YPA) and a 9:2 TD-to-INT ratio. Tannehill has a difficult Week 16 matchup against a Bills defense that ranks sixth against the pass, first in sacks (49), and third in interceptions (20), but his to-date play has locked him in as an every-week two-quarterback-league starter. Tannehill's improvement has also spiked the fantasy reliability of his supporting cast. ... Tannehill's target distribution since Brandon Gibson tore his patellar tendon seven games ago: Brian Hartline 66; Wallace 62; Charles Clay 52; Rishard Matthews 51; Lamar Miller 21; Daniel Thomas 8; Michael Egnew 9. ... Wallace is averaging five catches for 84 yards per game with three touchdowns over the last month. Even if he's not yet trustworthy enough to lock in as a fantasy WR2, Wallace has played himself into high-end WR3 territory. When Miami and Buffalo played in Week 7, Wallace totaled 88 yards and caught five passes. ... Hartline has exceeded 70 yards just twice over his last 13 games. He does have five-plus receptions in six straight weeks. Hartline is a WR4 in standard leagues. He's a low-ceiling WR3 option in PPR. I prefer Wallace's Week 16 matchup because he projects to run most of his routes against Bills LCB Leodis McKelvin, while Hartline takes on RCB Stephon Gilmore.

The Patriots surprisingly assigned top corner Aqib Talib to Clay on a high number of Week 15 snaps, limiting Clay to one catch for six yards among two targets. Thus, Wallace (6-105-1) went off on the perimeter. It's hard to imagine Bills DC Mike Pettine copying Bill Belichick's approach after it didn't pay off. Before Week 15, Clay had seen at least seven targets in five straight games and was providing reliable weekly TE1 value. Working against Clay's fantasy title week outlook is the fact that Buffalo held him to one catch for a seven-yard touchdown in Week 7. On the season, the Bills are 23rd in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. ... With Thomas and Miller both healthy in last Sunday's win over New England, the latter handled a team-high 15 carries while the former managed 18 yards on six touches. Miller played 34 snaps compared to Thomas' 18. The Week 16 matchup is favorable against Buffalo's bottom-seven run defense, but Miami's backfield hasn't been a consistent source of fantasy production all season. And betting that will change in fantasy championships probably isn't a savvy approach. If you're somehow desperate to invest in a Fins running back, Miller would be the best bet simply because he gets more playing time and carries, and Thomas suffered an apparent Week 15 setback with his previous ankle injury.

Sunday's matchup with Miami is a dangerous one for fill-in starter Thad Lewis, who will replace E.J. Manuel after the rookie's third knee injury of his first NFL season. The Dolphins are capable of bringing ferocious front-four pressure, a trait that can make life difficult on an already limited passer. Seventh in the NFL in sacks (41) and holding enemy quarterbacks to the fourth lowest passer rating in football (77.1), Miami's defense combined with Tannehill's progression have been the highest-impact keys to the Dolphins' three-game win streak. Particularly without top receiver Stevie Johnson (personal), Lewis isn't even a QB2 in Week 16. Miami's defense is an attractive fantasy streamer play. ... Lewis' target distribution on the season: Johnson 24; Scott Chandler 18; Fred Jackson 14; Robert Woods 13; T.J. Graham 12; Marquise Goodwin 8; C.J. Spiller 5; Chris Hogan 3. ... Look for Hogan to fill in as Buffalo's primary slot receiver, with either Goodwin or Graham starting opposite Woods outside. ... Coach Doug Marrone told reporters last week he wanted to increase Goodwin's stretch-run involvement. Goodwin proceeded to play 15 snaps in the win over Jacksonville -- a season low since Week 7 -- and see zero targets. Goodwin has flashed serious big-play ability as a rookie, but he's a Dynasty league prospect only. This potential start could still give the coaches a positive late-season impression of Goodwin entering the spring.

Woods turned in his most productive game (5-82-1) since the first month of the season in last week's win over Jacksonville, but was held to 24 scoreless yards on three receptions in Buffalo's October meeting with Miami. (Lewis started that game.) Woods runs his routes on the same side of the field as Dolphins top corner Brent Grimes, and isn't an appealing Week 16 sleeper despite Johnson's absence. ... Chandler has gone eight games without a touchdown, pushing him toward the back end of TE2s. He's always been a TD-dependent fantasy commodity. The Dolphins allow the sixth most fantasy points to tight ends, but Chandler has consistently come up short even in the finest of matchups. ... Whereas Miami has played stingy pass defense this season, DC Kevin Coyle's unit has been vulnerable on the ground. The Dolphins rank 22nd against the run. As usual, Spiller will be a boom-or-bust flex option. Miami held Spiller to 11 yards on six carries in Week 7, though he was playing through a high ankle sprain at the time. F-Jax is a steadier, lower-upside flex with a higher floor. I'd still prefer to aim higher with fantasy trophies on the line.

Score Prediction: Bills 20, Dolphins 17

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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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