Darren McFadden faces a tough defense in the Denver Broncos, which begs concern regarding fantasy football implications.
McFadden officially listed as probable and participated fully in practice. He's playing.— Jerry McDonald (@Jerrymcd) December 5, 2012
To that end, McFadden is still a tough fantasy football decision. The Broncos possess one of the NFL's more complete defenses and McFadden hasn't been consistently durable this season.
One reasonable approach is a coin toss, because difficult circumstances can be solved with a simple approach. And the decision only amplifies if this week is a fantasy playoff game.
Therefore, let's instead break down both sides of the coin and determine whether McFadden deserves a fantasy start in Week 14.
When McFadden is healthy his A-game can match anyone in pro football.
Plus, according to Eric Gilmore of CBSSports.com:
"He looked good [Tuesday]," running backs coach Kelly Skipper said of McFadden after practice. "You could see him cutting, you could see him bursting off the foot. You wouldn't have noticed today that he had been injured."
After all, in four of his eight games played this season McFadden has accounted for 80-plus total yards. One of which came vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers, where McFadden ran for 113 yards and a touchdown.
And the Steelers still remain one of the NFL's top defenses across the board.
McFadden is also capable of impacting as a dual-threat. With 190 receiving yards on 31 receptions this season, his ability to beat linebackers one-on-one and make defenders miss in the open field is quite impressive.
The end result is plenty of yards after the catch.
So for Oakland to upset the Broncos he must be a constant contributor. Factor in the Raiders ranking No. 8 in passing offense, and McFadden's backfield presence alone will force Denver to respect the ground game.
Include this being a shortened week and Oakland playing host to the Broncos, and the matchup is quite appealing.
For one, McFadden hasn't played since early November against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Secondly, Denver is on a roll and the defense has been dominant. Giving up only 3.6 yards per carry, the Broncos rank No. 7 in rushing defense and No. 3 in total defense.
Not to mention, McFadden was limited to just 34 rushing yards and 2.6 yards per attempt when facing Denver in Week 4. Presenting front seven players such as Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil, Denver has only been improving against the run in 2012.
Even tougher for any offense is the coverage behind that front seven.
One prime example of Champ Bailey and the secondary's ability was their holding Drew Brees to a mere 213 yards passing in Week 8.
That kind of lockdown coverage takes a vehement amount of pressure off the front seven, which allows Miller and Co. to focus on stuffing the run and applying constant quarterback pressure. Oakland may field a top 10 passing offense, but the Broncos will get pressure and create turnover opportunities.
Additionally, one indirect factor is Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense.
The Raiders rank No. 28 in total defense and allow an average of 387 total yards per contest. In short, Denver will push the pace and force Oakland to keep up. That results in more passing attempts from Carson Palmer and fewer carries for McFadden.
Do not start McFadden.
Denver is simply too rugged up front defensively and too well-disciplined against the run. Week 13 emphatically displayed this aspect vs. Tampa Bay, as the Broncos minimized Doug Martin to 56 yards and only 3.1 yards per carry.
By comparison, Oakland gave up 251 rushing yards and a 10-yards-per-carry average to Martin.
Having recorded 38 sacks on the year as well, Denver is capable of controlling the line of scrimmage without having to consistently blitz. In turn, that leaves the linebackers free to read and react against the run, and provide an underneath shell at the intermediate level for coverage.
If anything, McFadden's impact will be to set up play-action and keep Denver honest. Still, actual fantasy football numbers won't occur as a result.
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