Thursday Night Game – Week 4
Cleveland Browns @ Baltimore Ravens – 7:20pm CT on NFL Network
One of the new wrinkles set up for the 2012 season (besides those awful replacement refs) is that every week of the year, two teams are called upon to cram a week's worth of planning into three short days so they can suit up and play on Thursday night.
My guess is that most of the players/coaches don't like it, but it certainly spices up the week for the majority of fans—especially those who play fantasy football.
Not every owner will have a player from the game on their team, but there are always quite a few fantasy-relevant players that might be going against you so every game is worth reading up on.
With that in mind, here is the analysis of each of those players and what they might do for (or against) your fantasy team this Thursday night.
Weeden hasn’t been all that bad as far as rookie QBs go, but he’s still a far cry from even being discussed as a fantasy option this season.
The Browns are still pretty bad, though, which has Brandon passing the ball a ton (110 attempts, tied for 10th in the NFL), so the possibility of his having games like the 322-yard, 2-TD effort he had in Week 2 is always there.
However, the chances of it happening are not only decreased by the Browns inept receiving corps, but are pretty much nil against a Ravens defense tied for the fewest passing TDs allowed (2) through three weeks of action.
Fantasy Call – The only way Brandon Weeden would ever crack your fantasy lineup this week is if you play in a 16-team, two-QB league… and even then I would think twice.
The last time a Browns quarterback threw for more than 200 yards or a single TD against Baltimore was back in 2008 when Derek Anderson tossed up two TDs and 219 yards.
Which will be the best fantasy QB for the rest of the season?
After three weeks of the 2012 NFL season, Joe Flacco ranks second in the league in passing yards with 913 and is tied for fifth with six touchdowns passes.
Obviously, the Ravens new up-tempo offensive system is working wonders for Flacco’s fantasy stock as his Week 3 performance now sets him firmly within the top-10 fantasy QBs.
Last week I begged for readers not to jump off the wagon with Joe Cool because of his poor Week 2 performance, and I hope you all listened.
This week, he’ll be facing a Browns defense that is one of only five teams to not allow a single rushing touchdown on the season. I mention this because they also happen to be tied for second-worst in the league allowing EIGHT passing TDs through three games (along with 281 passing yards per game).
Fantasy Call – I know it still sounds crazy, but Joe Flacco is a guy you really want to get in your starting lineup this week. Ray Rice will get his work in—no doubt about that—but the Browns ability to keep RUNNING BACKS out of the endzone is for real as they’ve been good in that area for a few years running.
Basically, if the Ravens are going to score (I’m guessing at least 30 points as they’ve averaged 32.7 this season), Flacco will likely be the one doing it and should give his fantasy owners enough of a reason to feel good heading into the weekend’s games.
If there’s one thing that remains constant in fantasy football, it’s that rookies, especially running backs, will have their ups and downs throughout their first NFL season. Even Cam Newton—who was possibly the best fantasy rookie ever—had a few off-games in 2011.
Strange as it sounds, even though Richardson had just 27 rushing yards last weekend against the Bills and only 39 back in Week 1, he still ranks as a top-10 RB in both standard-scoring AND PPR leagues because he gets all the touches and scores all the touchdowns.
In fact, the only other running back to receive a handoff this season was Chris Ogbonnaya who saw one carry for six yards last weekend.
Fantasy Call – Baltimore has been pretty stellar against the rush throughout the years and has allowed just 3.36 yards per carry so far this season, but they do seem to be susceptible to the rushing TD—they’ve already allowed four in 2012 after jumping into the double-digits last season for the first time since 2002.
That being said, I’m betting the Ravens focus their energy on stopping Richardson and make Brandon Weeden beat them, so Trent may not be the soundest of plays this week.
Look for a better option at your RB2 position this week and use him as a flex if your league allows for it.
Montario Hardesty/ Chris Ogbonnaya/Brandon Jackson
Like I said above with Richardson, only one of these three backs has a carry this year and it’s Ogbonnaya with ONE.
Fantasy Call – I’m thinking soccer is more your sport if you’re even considering this option.
Rice continued to do his normal fantasy damage last Sunday night, putting up 150 total yards (101 rushing) along with a rushing TD and five receptions. His consistent high-end fantasy production is a dream for fantasy owners and won’t be thwarted this Thursday night against the Cleveland Browns.
In fact, back in Week 9 of his rookie 2008 season, Rice put up his first 100-yard game (154 yards on 21 carries) against the Browns, and has enjoyed playing against them ever since.
The Ravens new up-tempo offense has given Rice a little more room to do his stuff out there and while the Browns have been pretty good against the rush thus far, they’ll be in over their heads this week after allowing Tashard Choice to rush for the third-most yards in his career in only three quarters of action.
Fantasy Call – Not only is he one of the more solid RB1 plays this week, he might just be the fantasy gem of the bunch.
Pierce looks like a pretty good backup RB at this point and is getting an average of four touches per game, but won’t really be a fantasy factor unless Rice gets hurt.
Fantasy Call – Unless you’re in a 16-team league and need about 20 yards and a remote chance at a TD, keep him stashed on your bench as a handcuff.
Once again, Greg Little finds himself back in the doghouse due to his recurring bout with the dropsies. He’s been targeted 15 times so far, yet has only caught seven balls (with two drops) this season for a paltry 74 yards and one TD.
Nothing else seems to have changed from last year either, as he continues to disappoint fantasy owners with bad games after every week in which he shows a little promise.
Fantasy Call – He’s still a massive man and a real nice talent, but until he cures his problem with catching the ball, he’s almost unplayable in fantasy leagues.
If you need to take a chance with your WR3/flex position, go ahead, but don’t expect much as it took him TWO games to put up seven catches for 58 yards against the Ravens last year.
****** UPDATE ******
Massaquoi has been ruled out for the Thursday night game (hamstring)
As usual, Massaquoi showed a little fantasy promise for the first couple of weeks of the season, catching eight passes for 131 yards including a 90-yard effort in Week 2.
However, there’s nothing more assured of in an NFL season than a Massaquoi injury, which is exactly what happened last week when Mohamed left the game in the third quarter with a bum hamstring.
Fantasy Call – If you were one of the few who fell for his quick start, you’ve learned your lesson and will never make the mistake again. Either way, he’s not worth your time against the Ravens this week.
Gordon certainly has promise and might be the most talented wide receiver on the team, but he’s still a touch raw and will need at least 8-10 games before he becomes even remotely comfortable with the speed of the NFL.
Fantasy Call – If you have room on your bench, keep him stashed. Otherwise, there are better options out there to grab right now.
Benjamin is easily the best skitterbug of the bunch and most likely to create off a quick screen of some sort, but he hasn’t been involved enough yet to even consider him worth a pickup.
Fantasy Call – Sit him and stash him if you have him in a dynasty league.
At least as a receiver, you can put a fork in him…
Fantasy Call – …he’s done.
I don’t think you can say enough about Torrey Smith and the circumstances in which he performed last Sunday night. Just to suit up was an accomplishment in itself, but to grab six balls for 127 yards and TWO touchdowns in a win over your rival Patriots… well, that was pretty f’ing special.
As for this week, he’s never the best PPR guy for your fantasy team, but since the Browns are still without CB Joe Haden in the lineup, Cleveland can be thrown on all day long as they’ve already allowed the third-most fantasy points to wide receivers this season.
Fantasy Call – He’s looking a LOT like a WR1 type of player this week as the Browns have had a crapload of trouble covering WRs with speed this season.
Start him with confidence unless news breaks that he’ll be missing the game for any sort of personal reason.
Boldin has been consistent as a WR3 for fantasy teams, but hasn’t had that big game to make you want to take the chance on him each week.
He’s still a viable threat within this offense, as shown by his Week 1 performance grabbing four balls for 63 yards and a TD, but it’s become quite obvious that he no longer possesses the BIG week ability to make anyone scared to face him.
He’s also slowed down another notch this season, and because the players in the league have become so big, his size no longer makes a difference.
Fantasy Call – In 2010, Boldin had an eight-catch, 142-yard, three-TD game against the Browns, though last season, he was only available for one of their matchups and put up a stinker with two catches for 32 yards.
Against a weak team like Cleveland, Boldin is worth a shot as your WR3/flex as the Browns will undoubtedly be paying more attention to Torrey Smith and Ray Rice throughout the game.
Not the sexiest play here, but it could be worth it.
Watson is over the hill and being pushed out of the starting lineup by Mr. Jordan Cameron as we speak. His four catches on eight targets for 15 yards last Sunday and seven catches for 51 yards on the season pretty much speak for themselves.
Fantasy Call – In a 16-team league? Maybe. Nah, probably not.
Cameron is going to be a tight end to be reckoned with this season, as he finally got in the game last week and caught five balls for 45 yards on seven targets.
He’s a far superior athlete than Ben Watson at this point in their careers and should continue to get looks from Weeden as the season rolls along.
Fantasy Call – Baltimore has experienced a bit of a problem with a more athletic tight end, so Cameron might actually put up some decent stats here IF the coaches have finally decided to move on from Watson.
That said, I want to see it translate into fantasy points first before advocating his playing time. The Browns have a tough time scoring as is, so don’t expect this to be Jordan’s breakout game against a tough D like the Ravens.
Ummmm, Dennis Pitta is kind of a beast, fellas.
Like I said last week, he isn’t coming out of nowhere, but he’s certainly been one of the bigger surprises of this young 2012 season. He still leads the league in targets for tight ends (31, tied with Jimmy Graham) and is second in receptions with 18 (Gonzo has 21, Graham has 17).
I’ll say it again as well—the reason behind his sudden ascension is two-fold:
The Ravens' move to an up-tempo offense and Dennis Pitta’s role within that offense is the first reason. His role is, quite simply, what the New England Patriots did with Aaron Hernandez, in that they move him all over the field using him as a receiver both out wide and in the slot, as opposed to lining him up next to the offensive tackle to block.
The second reason is that he’s actually a really good receiver for the position and can make plays with his athleticism at 6’4”, 245 pounds.
If they continue to deploy this type of tactic with him, Pitta could be a fixture as your TE1 for the remainder of the season.
Fantasy Call – The Browns have been decent against tight ends the past few seasons, but won’t be able to hang with him in the Ravens new scheme. He’s come up with TE1 numbers for two out of three weeks now (TE2 in the other week) and should be used as such.
If you believe in Flacco the way I do, you’ll also believe in Pitta.
Dickson, though also considered a very athletic NFL tight end, has been relegated to blocking duties within the Ravens offense and has seen not even a third of the targets that Pitta has on the season.
He’ll be worth a look if Pitta gets injured again, but probably isn’t even worth rostering at this point with so much talent at the position nowadays.
Fantasy Call – Don’t just sit him—drop him for someone else with a lot more breakout potential…at ANY position.
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