Aaron Rodgers vs. Alex Smith: Silva Week 11 Predictions
I will be breaking down every single football game this week. Like on NFL Playbook they break down every single game, that's what I did, and my article is long, so be ready for a show.
Last Weeks Record (12-2)
My Overall Record (56-26)
Let's get cracking.
Thursday Night Football: Dolphins at Panthers
This game sets up as a decidedly run-heavy affair. Both teams rank in the Top Three in rushing attempts and have bottom-eight passing attacks.
Carolina seemingly has an edge at home after Miami lost Ronnie Brown for the year, but new Dolphins every-down back Ricky Williams has been even more effective per play.
Carolina is also highly suspectible to the run, ranking 25th in rush defense and allowing an NFL sixth-worst 4.6 YPC.
Not helping the Panthers: WLB Thomas Davis (torn ACL) went on I.R. in Week Nine, All-Pro DE Julius Peppers can't play on early downs due to a broken hand, and DT Damione Lewis (shoulder) is questionable. The Dolphins get back mauling RG Justin Smiley from injury, so consider Williams a legit RB1 in this very favorable matchup.
Miami will again ask Chad Henne to "game manage", rather than test the Panthers' No. 4 pass defense. While Henne has executed the role successfully with just one turnover in his last three games, this isn't a recipe for even two-QB league fantasy production. He's thrown only two TDs and is averaging 166 passing yards a game over the same span...
Davone Bess has seemingly emerged as Henne's go-to guy with 10 catches for 128 yards in his last two efforts, but his lack of big-play ability and the Dolphins' four-receiver rotation kills his upside. Bess is only a borderline WR3 in PPR leagues...
Ted Ginn Jr. started last week, but was benched after an early drop. Avoid Dolphins wideouts after Bess, and their tight ends. Anthony Fasano (hip) won't play.
DeAngelo Williams (knee) and Jonathan Stewart (heel) are listed as questionable, but both will play. While Williams is Carolina's clear lead back, Stewart has emerged as a significant red-zone threat.
J-Stew is seeing 53 percent of the Panthers' red-zone carries despite getting 111 touches to D-Will's 189 on the year. While Williams is an every-week play—even against Miami's No. 7 run defense—Stewart is the better bet for a touchdown in any given week. Stewart's superior power is a big plus when Carolina is playing with a short field.
The loss of LT Jordan Gross to a season-ending ankle fracture will adversely affect the Panthers' deep passing game, especially against teams that generate pressure.
The Dolphins are fourth in the league in sacks, and have found an upgrade over Joey Porter at ROLB in Charlie Anderson and Cameron Wake. With heat coming off the weak side, Jake Delhomme will struggle to find time in the pocket...
Steve Smith would be impossible to sit against Miami's No. 27 pass defense, but may need a breakdown in the secondary to hit a big play...Don't expect Muhsin Muhammad to come close to repeating his six-catch, 91-yard Week 10 output against the Falcons. Muhammad racked up those numbers against Atlanta's zone defense. The Dolphins apply much more press coverage, which Moose can't separate from.
My Pick: Dolphins
Pittsburgh at Kansas City
Already faced with a severe mismatch against the Steelers, the Chiefs lost all hope of keeping this one close when Dwayne Bowe was suspended for PED use. Chris Chambers takes over as the "No. 1" receiver with Lance Long No. 2, but the entire K.C. passing game should be avoided in fantasy.
Steelers' coordinator Dick LeBeau, whose defense is tied for fourth in the NFL in sacks, will pour blitzes on Matt Cassel, who's taken the second most sacks in the league. Chambers' and Long's production will ultimately benefit from Bowe's month-long absence, but not this week.
Jamaal Charles, coming off a career game (117 yards, TD, 5.7 YPC), appears to have a firm grip on Kansas City's featured back job.
Kolby Smith managed 12 yards on nine carries last week, and his role will continue to decline. He doesn't make anyone miss, which is a recipe for no-gains and losses behind a line that can't create lanes.
While Charles isn't a fantasy option against Pittsburgh's No. 1 run defense, he has favorable matchups in four straight weeks thereafter (at SD, vs. DEN, vs. BUF, and vs. CLE), giving him difference-making potential down the stretch.
The Steelers will dominate time of possession in this one, making Rashard Mendenhall a legit RB1 play. The Chiefs' No. 27 run defense averages 4.6 YPC against, and one rushing TD allowed.
Pittsburgh can whip K.C. without a spread offense, reducing "spread back" Mewelde Moore's role, and Willie Parker hardly plays anymore...Santonio Holmes is a strong bet for a big receiving day.
The Chiefs' slow-footed secondary is highly susceptible to long passing plays (league-high 12 completions of 40-plus yards allowed), and Holmes is Pittsburgh's most dangerous deep weapon.
Weather won't hinder passing, with temps in the high 50s, a 20 percent chance of rain, and light wind in the Arrowhead forecast. While the Steelers will use a balanced attack because K.C. is so weak against the run, Ben Roethlisberger remains a Top-Five QB1.
The Chiefs lack the pass rush to make Big Ben uncomfortable, as the Bengals did in Week 10...K.C.'s awful safety play upgrades Heath Miller's matchup.
Miller's numbers will decline after a blazing-hot first half with winter taking effect, but he's a fantasy starter this week. He won't have to block much...Hines Ward also struggled against Cincinnati, but is likely to rebound at K.C...Mike Wallace remains a week-to-week crapshoot.
My Pick: Steelers
Cleveland at Detroit
A battle of one-win teams won't intrigue anyone aside from diehard Browns and Lions fans, if even them. But Detroit's ability to make big plays in the passing game gives them an edge at domed Ford Field.
Only four teams yield more 20-plus yard completions than the Browns, and Calvin Johnson confirmed his knee woes are behind him with 84 yards on eight catches last week at Minnesota. He's a WR1 again.
Brandon Pettigrew came back to earth with 23 yards against the Vikings after a seven-catch, 70-yard, one-score Week Nine. He's way too inconsistent for TE1 consideration.
Matthew Stafford also looked healthy in Week 10, scrambling for 28 yards. The main thing now holding him back is his WR corps after Calvin.
Drop machine Bryant Johnson is an awful fantasy bet regardless of matchup...Kevin Smith saw 15 touches to Maurice Morris' seven last week, but MoMo averaged just two yards per touch.
While Smith isn't playing well enough to offer upside, he's a workable RB2 against a Browns defense that ranks 30th against the run, is down its Top-Two inside linebackers, and has given up the third-most rushing scores in the NFL. Detroit will move the ball.
Whether it's on ultra-conservative playcaller Brian Daboll or Brady Quinn, the Browns don't take any shots downfield. Down by 16 in the third quarter of Week 10 versus Baltimore, Daboll opted for Joshua Cribbs in the Wildcat over Quinn's arm. This is a formula for Mohamed Massaquoi to routinely stay under 50 yards, even against Detroit's NFL-worst pass defense.
Slot man Mike Furrey led Cleveland in receiving in Week 10; no other Brown caught more than one pass. Don't consider Quinn a Week 11 "sleeper", even in two-QB leagues, despite the favorable matchup.
Jerome Harrison has officially fallen behind undrafted rookie Chris Jennings to be No. 2 on the Browns' depth chart. Harrison didn't touch the ball against Baltimore and blew a blitz pickup, while Jennings had seven carries and a catch.
Safely drop Harrison in all formats...Jamal Lewis will get any goal-line carries against the Lions, but the Browns aren't likely to get that close. They're dead last in the league in yards per play (3.7), and only the Raiders have generated fewer first downs.
My Pick: Lions
New Orleans at Tampa Bay
The Saints game planned for Reggie Bush to play a big early role in last Sunday's win at St. Louis, but it's not a sign of things to come. While Bush racked up 98 yards and two TDs in the first half, he ultimately saw just eight touches and was removed from the close game late, playing only five of the team's final 30 snaps.
Pierre Thomas took over, and is easily the best fantasy bet in this backfield. Expect 18-20 touches from P.T. against a Bucs team the Saints won't take lightly. It's a division game, and Tampa beat Green Bay in Week Nine before losing to Miami by two last week. Now dealing with more knee problems, Bush isn't a fantasy option.
Marques Colston has three grabs for 63 yards in his last two outings combined, and will likely now face off with Bucs shadow CB Aqib Talib. Colston is an every-week play, but threatens to be held under 50 yards again. Talib is a true shutdown force. Still, Tampa's overall numbers against the pass are poor. They've allowed 8.1 yards per throw (second worst in the NFL), and 19 TDs (third most).
Keep Colston going, and Drew Brees is an obvious start. Robert Meachem is benefiting from Lance Moore's (high ankle sprain) absence, but won't suddenly be consistent. Leave him and Devery Henderson on benches. The Bucs struggle against tight ends. Use Jeremy Shockey.
Josh Freeman has a bright future and should be strongly considered in two-QB leagues moving forward. Poised, plenty accurate, and possessing a rifle arm, Freeman gets a Saints defense that is minus its top two corners (Jabari Greer—groin, Tracy Porter—knee) and has plummeted to 19th against the pass due to recent struggles. Freeman is also helped by the return of Antonio Bryant, Tampa Bay's lone deep threat. Kellen Winslow has been the main beneficiary of Freeman's insertion. K2 has 11 catches for 159 yards, and a touchdown in Freeman's two starts.
The Saints have been gutted by the run since DT Sedrick Ellis' MCL sprain, surrendering nearly 6.0 YPC and four rushing TDs in Ellis' three games out. Carnell Williams' fantasy ceiling is limited by a timeshare with Derrick Ward, but Caddy gets goal-line carries, and has 30 touches to Ward's 17 over the last two games.
Cadillac is unlikely to top 70 rushing yards, but is a fair bet to score and makes for a fine flex gamble in non-PPR leagues. Bryant's return helps Freeman, but he isn't an option on his own coming off knee woes. He's averaged just a 3-39 line in six 2009 appearances.
My Pick: Saints
Atlanta at NY Giants
The Meadowlands forecast calls for mid-50s temps, only seven MPH winds, and a 20 percent chance of rain, which won't hinder passing. The Giants' coaching staff, however, made it clear during the Week 10 bye that their second-half focus will be on the ground game. It's what playcaller Kevin Gilbride's unit does best.
Brandon Jacobs will resume his role as New York's lead horse, with Danny Ware taking over as the full-time third-down back. Ahmad Bradshaw, dealing with a partially cracked foot, won't play as much. Confidently start Jacobs against the Falcons' No. 26 rush defense.
Eli Manning's pass attempts will drop in the renewed approach, but his matchup is still favorable enough for QB1 use. Returning from an off week to rest his plantar fasciitis, Eli faces the NFL's No. 28 pass defense.
Lacking depth and continuity at corner, the Falcons struggle against slot receivers. Steve Smith is the Giants' slot man in three-wide sets, and a safe bet to lead New York in receiving. Rotating split ends Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham will remain inconsistent on fewer targets in the run-minded attack. This matchup is favorable, but both are boom, or bust.
Matt Ryan has thrown 11 picks in his last six games while averaging just 206 passing yards in his last five. The Giants' secondary is generous, but gets back Aaron Ross (hamstring) to replace burnable nickel CB Kevin Dockery. While Ryan is more likely to turn it around than stay in the tank down the stretch, he's a low-end QB1 on Sunday.
Since a hot start against No. 1 wideouts, the Giants have become one of the worst teams at defending them. Roddy White proved with 98 yards on seven Week 10 receptions that his knee "injury" isn't an issue. He's a Top-15 WR play.
Jason Snelling's upside is limited by mediocre skills and a ridiculously talented Giants' front seven that is finally healthy, but don't expect Jerious Norwood to steal many carries. Michael Turner (high ankle sprain) will not play, and Norwood (hip) isn't even healthy enough to fully practice after sitting out for a month. Snelling, who is adept in the passing game, is a safe bet for 16-19 touches and any goal-line chances. Ross' return will help the Giants' defense cover wide receivers, but their safeties remain a serious liability. Tony Gonzalez should be in fantasy lineups.
My Pick: Gaints
Buffalo at Jacksonville
There is no greater Week 11 mismatch than Maurice Jones-Drew against Buffalo's No. 32 run defense. After letting Chris Johnson total 232 yards and two TDs last Sunday, a Bills team that ranks last in virtually every rushing category faces the NFL's touchdown leader.
David Garrard had one of his best games ever last week against the Jets' No. 2 pass defense, but he's not a good bet against a Top-Nine Bills' secondary that ranks first in INTs, and has allowed the second fewest TD passes in the league. There's also a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms in Jacksonville.
Mike Sims-Walker beat Lito Sheppard and Dwight Lowery for 40 first-half yards and a score in last week's win before the Jets assigned Darrelle Revis to shadow him for the final two quarters. He had one catch for nine yards after halftime.
Still, Jags playcaller Dirk Koetter impressively got MSW in favorable matchups. Koetter's promising system keeps Sims-Walker as an every-week starter, even against a tough Bills secondary. Torry Holt has become the Jags' No. 4 offensive option behind Jones-Drew, Sims-Walker, and slot man Mike Thomas. He's a WR4/5.
Prior to Dick Jauron's firing, the Bills resumed an even timeshare between Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson (F-Jax has 20 touches to Lynch's 25 in the last two games).
It's fair to speculate that Perry Fewell will shake things up, but there's no telling which way the interim coach will lean until games are played. While Lynch is a flex/RB2 option against the Jags' up-and-down run defense, this is a good "wait and see" week for Buffalo's backfield. Jackson proved he was a legit every-down back early this year, and Fewell may not have as much loyalty to Lynch as Jauron did.
Nothing will save Terrell Owens' season at this point, but Trent Edwards' demotion bodes well for Lee Evans. Evans caught two touchdowns last week, the first from Jackson in the Wildcat, and the second from Ryan Fitzpatrick. Evans and Fitz exhibited rapport earlier in the year, and this is a good on-paper matchup.
While t-storms could affect passing, the Jags own the 26th-ranked secondary, have allowed the league's fifth most passing TDs, and are without top CB Rashean Mathis (groin).
Dynasty league watch: Bills TE Shawn Nelson. He takes over as a full-time starter with Derek Fine on injured reserve.
My Pick: Jaguars
Washington at Dallas
Dallas' Week 10 abandonment of the run resulted in an eight-touch, 37-yard disaster for Marion Barber, and a 17-7 loss. MB3 showed explosion on his first four carries, piling up 27 yards before playcaller Jason Garrett took the ball out of his hands.
All this week the Cowboys' coaching staff has vowed to refocus on running. It's a good idea, as Washington is No. 1 against the pass and springing leaks left and right on the front seven. Albert Haynesworth (ankle) was in a protective boot all week, and the Skins have plummeted to 24th against the run. Get Barber in your lineup.
Roy Williams' 180 yards in his last two games, and two TDs in his last three are no fluke. Miles Austin commands double teams, and Williams has long had talent to exploit man coverage. Expect him to stay hot against a Skins team playing musical chairs at right corner, which Williams usually lines up across from.
Carlos Rogers was benched last week, so Roy may see his fair share of diminutive Justin Tryon and declining Fred Smoot. While Williams is a rock-solid WR2, consider Austin a WR2/3 going forward. This isn't a favorable matchup. The Redskins haven't allowed a tight end to top 62 yards all year. Sit Jason Witten if you have higher-upside options.
Washington's last seven quarters proved that Jim Zorn's offense functions more smoothly with Ladell Betts at lead back, rather than Clinton Portis. Portis (concussion) will sit again, keeping Betts as an RB2/flex. The Cowboys' run defense is stingy (No. 10 overall, four rushing TDs allowed in nine games), but the Redskins can move the ball with their new shortened passing game and Betts available for dump-downs. Betts also got Washington's Week 10 goal-line carry ahead of Rock Cartwright, executing from a yard out for the game-winning touchdown.
The Skins' aforementioned conservative offense continues to kill Santana Moss' numbers. He's topped 47 yards once since Week Four and hasn't found the end zone in six games. Zorn's new approach may benefit Chris Cooley (ankle) when he returns, but makes Moss barely a WR4.
Devin Thomas' snap-to-snap effort is lacking. He showed after-catch ability in Week 10 by making four Broncos miss on a key late-game 27-yard pickup, but isn't on the fantasy radar.
The Cowboys aren't any good in tight end defense, but you should still be able to do better than Fred Davis.
My Pick: Cowboys
Seattle at Minnesota
Brett Favre's annual late-year letdown hasn't begun. The 40-year-old set a season high with 344 yards against Detroit last week, and stays home in the Metrodome to face Seattle's No. 22 pass defense. Favre has always been highly effective indoors, and Seahawks top CB Marcus Trufant is questionable with a concussion. Ride Favre while he's hot.
Adrian Peterson is (only?) the No. 3 player in fantasy. "All Day" will try to make a move on Maurice Jones-Drew and Chris Johnson against a Seattle team that surrenders nearly a rushing TD per game, and 4.3 YPC on the ground.
NFC receiving yards leader Sidney Rice is locked in as an every-week fantasy starter. He may be the biggest beneficiary of Trufant's potential absence.
Bernard Berrian has tumbled to a No. 4/5 option in Minnesota's offense, whether or not his hamstring is still an issue. Seattle doesn't give up many big passing plays (sixth fewest 20-plus yard completions allowed), which should keep Berrian on benches in all formats. Visanthe Shiancoe remains one of Favre's favorite red-zone targets, but his production completely depends on TDs. He hasn't seen 50 yards all year. Percy Harvin has also been very inconsistent. He helps the Vikings more than fantasy teams.
Justin Forsett, out-producing the rest of Seattle's backfield all year, finally gets his shot at featured back duties with Julius Jones (rib, lung) out indefinitely. Too bad it's at Minnesota.
While Forsett is a viable PPR flex because he'll stay in for passing downs, the Vikings' run defense ranks sixth and has given up just two TDs. Forsett needs Julius to miss Week 12 against St. Louis to be a confident start. L
ouis Rankin will play a complementary role behind Forsett. He's only a return-yardage option, however, after seeing just six touches to Forsett's 22 after Jones' Week 10 injury.
Since Seattle installed a pass-first attack three weeks ago, Matt Hasselbeck is averaging 48 pass attempts a game. He'll throw early and often against a Vikings team that will "ease in" Antoine Winfield (foot) by using him only in sub-packages, and start beatable Benny Sapp opposite Cedric Griffin.
Don't let Nate Burleson's catch-less Week 10 prevent you from using him. He was shut down by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. The Vikes don't have a corner remotely as talented as DRC. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is out for vengeance against a Vikings team he nearly signed with this offseason. Keep John Carlson benched. He'll help LT Sean Locklear block Jared Allen.
My Pick: Vikings
San Francisco at Green Bay
Aaron Rodgers (Winner) vs Alex Smith (Loser)
The 49ers continue to stifle opposing ground attacks. Yielding a league-low 3.3 YPC, San Francisco ranks No. 3 against the run while getting All-Pro caliber play from NT Aubrayo Franklin.
With C Jason Spitz (back) on I.R. and C Scott Wells (concussion) looking doubtful, the Pack may be forced to start undrafted rookie center Evan Dietrich-Smith. He would square off with Franklin, further downgrading Ryan Grant's already unfavorable matchup. Jermichael Finley returns this week, but isn't an option until we see he's 100 percent. His knee injury cost him three games.
Five Jay Cutler picks in Week 10 didn't help the 49ers' pass defense rank. They're 29th and don't match up well with Green Bay. San Francisco's 17 sacks are seventh fewest in the NFL, so Aaron Rodgers should have time to throw, and the Lambeau forecast (10 MPH winds, 50-plus degree temps, 20 percent chance of rain) is unlikely to hinder passing.
Rodgers is confidently a Top-Five QB. However, the Packers' short-passing approach continues to benefit Donald Driver, not Greg Jennings. The No. 28 overall fantasy wideout, Jennings is only a WR3. Driver is the No. 13 overall receiver.
The Packers may struggle to cover the 6.5-point spread, but a better would be smart to choose Mike McCarthy's team if he can get this game straight up. Green Bay has a Top-Four run defense, allowing just 3.5 yards a carry with a mere three rushing TDs against all year.
Shotgun-spread or not, San Francisco's offense revolves around Frank Gore. The Packers should be able to contain Gore with their stout front seven, use Charles Woodson to slow Michael Crabtree, and call on the NFL's No. 3 defense against tight ends (according to Football Outsiders) to minimize Vernon Davis' impact.
Davis is a must-start because he's the No. 2 fantasy tight end overall, but limit expectations in this matchup. While Crabtree has looked terrific since joining the 49ers' starting lineup after his first-half holdout, the Packers' sure-tackling DBs will hold him in check after the catch, and he still hasn't found the end zone. He's a WR3, but nothing more.
Josh Morgan has formally overtaken Isaac Bruce to start at flanker. Morgan's scored once all year, however, and is averaging 34 receiving yards per game. Crabtree is San Francisco's No. 1. While Alex Smith has breathed life into this offense, he's two-QB league material against Green Bay's Top-Six pass defense.
My Pick: 49ers (My homeboy is taking the Niners Adam Schefter, plus I am a 49ers fan).
Indianapolis at Baltimore
Joe Flacco is in a funk. His feet move slowly in the pocket, he's staring down receivers again, and "Joe Cool" managed just 155 yards and no touchdowns last Monday night at Cleveland. Flacco has just one TD and hasn't topped 200 passing yards in his last three games. We couldn't reasonably expect him to be semi-productive against a Colts' secondary that's given up just seven passing scores all season and allows the second fewest yards per attempt (6.2) in the league. Flacco's barely a QB2 until he picks it up in favorable matchups. Clearly, this isn't one.
As usual, Baltimore's game plan will revolve around Ray Rice. Indy's rush defense is mediocre (4.3 YPC allowed, seven TDs), and Rice is averaging 22 touches per game over the last month and a half. He also has six TDs in his last five games. Bench Todd Heap against a Colts defense that shuts down tight ends.
At this point, Derrick Mason is Baltimore's only wideout worth fantasy consideration. While Mason's refined routes will give Indy's rookie CBs fits, both Mark Clayton and Kelley Washington are coming off catch-less games. They need Flacco to bounce back.
Sixty-degree temps, 7 MPH winds, and a 10 percent chance of showers won't slow Peyton Manning, who's averaging 331 yards in his last three games. Nor will a middling Ravens secondary that will be tested without top pass rusher Terrell Suggs. Reggie Wayne will mostly face off with Ravens RCB Domonique Foxworth, who's been picked on all year.
Wayne, on pace for 123 catches, is fantasy's No. 1 wideout. The Ravens struggle against slot receivers due to their lack of corner depth. Austin Collie remains a quality WR3, and Dallas Clark leads all TEs in fantasy points.
Few Colts don't have favorable matchups. Baltimore tackles poorly in the back end, and Pierre Garcon has arguably been Indy's top after-catch receiver.
Despite being a fourth option in his own offense, Garcon is always worth WR3 consideration. Donald Brown is back from his shoulder injury, but isn't even clearly the Colts' No. 2 back anymore. When Joseph Addai exited for over a quarter last Sunday night, Brown and Chad Simpson shared the backfield evenly. Addai is the Colts' every-down runner until proven otherwise. He's never been an exceptional talent, but the offense moves smoothly when he's in the game and he executes in short yardage.
My Pick: Colts
Arizona at St. Louis
Chris Wells was unleashed last week versus Seattle, capitalizing for 127 yards and two scores on 18 touches compared to Tim Hightower's 15. If Wells didn't secure Arizona's lead back role with that effort, he will Sunday at St. Louis.
The Rams are dealing with injuries to five of their Top Six defensive linemen. Leonard Little (knee), James Hall (back), Clifton Ryan (toe), and Chris Long (knee) are all on the injury report, and key substitute DT/DE C.J. Ah You (knee) was placed on injured reserve Thursday. Hightower will stay active on passing downs, but this is Beanie's time to shine.
St. Louis' secondary showed mettle last week, holding Drew Brees to "just" 223 yards and two TDs, with Ronald Bartell blanketing Marques Colston (2-17). Bartell will draw Larry Fitzgerald in this one, not that it's likely to matter.
Fitz has averaged seven catches for 86 yards, with nine TDs in 10 career games against St. Louis. He won't be stopped.
Anquan Boldin is off the injury report and as healthy as ever after an 8-105 Week 10. He's an every-week WR2 and will burn up Quincy Butler.
Start Kurt Warner, but you already knew that.
Steve Breaston is always a good WR3 when Arizona faces poor secondaries. The Rams rank 25th against the pass.
The Rams simply don't have much of a chance. Cardinals ILB Gerald Hayes, without whom the Cardinals' run defense struggled badly, returns from a back injury. Steven Jackson will get the ball 20-plus times as always, but a healthy Hayes hurts his chances at a monster game. The last time Hayes played (Week Eight), Arizona was leading the league in run defense. They've since fallen to No. 8.
With Keenan Burton (torn patellar tendon) now on I.R, rookie Brandon Gibson becomes an every-down receiver. He'll be highly inconsistent, but is worth owning in all dynasty leagues.
Marc Bulger had a season-best game in Week 10, completing 65 percent of his passes for 298 yards, two TDs, and one pick. Amazing stat: Bulger hasn't posted back-to-back multiple-TD games since Weeks 12-13 of 2006. He's only a two-QB league option.
Donnie Avery proved he's finally over his series of first-half injuries by scoring twice last Sunday versus New Orleans. He'll now be covered by Cardinals LCB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, who is red hot and shut out Nate Burleson in Week 10. Avery is only a matchup play, and this isn't a favorable one.
My Pick: Cardinals
NY Jets at New England
Randy Moss owners should worry about Darrelle Revis covering their WR1. Revis has held the Mossman to 4-24, 3-26, and 2-22 lines in their last three meetings. But the loss of SS Jim Leonhard, New York's defensive signal caller, threatens to result in secondary miscommunication.
Be more confident in Moss than usual. No. 2 and No. 3 CBs Dwight Lowery and Lito Sheppard are proving to be major liabilities, even if the Jets' No. 3 pass defense rank doesn't reflect it yet. With Revis shadowing Moss, Wes Welker and Tom Brady will exploit the Jets' lesser corners.
The Pats will likely "ease" Sammy Morris back into the lineup coming off a month-long knee injury, perhaps even using him as a lead blocker. He's not a major threat to Laurence Maroney's workload.
Maroney's production will eventually take a hit, but he's a low-end RB2/flex against the Jets' No. 18 run defense. He's scored in four straight. Thanks mainly to the work of potential Pro Bowl FS Kerry Rhodes, the Jets are tough in tight end defense. Ben Watson has passed Chris Baker on the Pats' depth chart, but is averaging a measly 29 yards per game since Week One.
Thomas Jones, the No. 7 overall fantasy RB at age 31, has scored a TD and/or topped 100 yards in each of his last six efforts. The every-week starter will match up with an uninspiring Patriots run defense that ranks 17th overall and serves up 4.5 YPC. The statuses of key Pats DLs Ty Warren (ankle) and Jarvis Green (knee) are also uncertain. Both were inactive last week. With Jones red hot, it's not surprising that Shonn Greene hasn't emerged as a major factor. He's lost a fumble and averaged 2.93 YPC in his last two games, which won't earn him more playing time soon.
Mark Sanchez has improved after colliding into the rookie wall during a five-pick Week Six game versus Buffalo. Since, he's averaging a robust 7.75 YPA with four TDs and two INTs. Sanchez isn't QB1 worthy against the Pats' No. 7 pass defense, but his progress is good news for Jets receivers.
The matchup is difficult, but Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery are both solid, if low-upside WR3s. They'll have more value against worse secondaries. Bench Dustin Keller. The Foxoboro weather (mid-50s, 11 MPH winds, 10 percent chance of rain) won't hurt him, but the Patriots shut down TEs every week.
My Pick: Patriots
San Diego at Denver
Knowshon Moreno's stock is rising. The rookie resumed starting ahead of Correll Buckhalter in Week 10 and capitalized on Buckhalter's fumble-induced, first-quarter benching. Moreno became the every-down back, generating 104 yards on 20 touches.
Buckhalter is now nursing a knee injury, so Moreno is likely to remain featured going forward. Sunday's matchup with San Diego presents a prime opportunity for Moreno to separate even further. The Bolts have the NFL's No. 23 rush defense, and Denver may have to focus on the run with Kyle Orton nursing torn ankle ligaments.
Orton is expected to start, but his injury makes Brandon Marshall a risk. Marshall managed 49 yards in his last bout with San Diego, and Orton was awful after hurting his ankle in the second half of 2008. If Chris Simms starts, all Denver pass catchers should be benched. Simms looked totally inept in relief last Sunday, completing 3-of-13 passes for an embarrassing 13 yards.
Even Tony Scheffler, who owned the Chargers for 6-101-1 in their last meeting, wouldn't be usable in this scenario. Antonio Cromartie shut down Eddie Royal (0-0) in that game. Royal isn't a fantasy option.
Denver's run defense has sprung severe leaks, and can't be considered a difficult matchup moving forward. Over their last games, every starting running back the Broncos have faced has totaled at least 100 yards. LaDainian Tomlinson, their Week 11 opponent, was among them.
LT isn't often recommended as a fantasy play in this space, but he's a fine low- to mid-level RB2 in this matchup. The Broncos have been surprisingly mediocre at defending tight ends this season, despite the marvelous play of FS Brian Dawkins. Antonio Gates can't possibly be benched.
The Broncos' pass defense is legit. Helped by the league's second most sacks, Denver ranks fifth against the pass and gives up just one passing TD a game.
Still, Philip Rivers is a must-start. The Mile High weather (mid-50s, 10 MPH winds, 10 percent chance of rain) won't hurt, and San Diego's aggressive offense supports his numbers. Only the Saints average more yards per pass attempt, and just two teams (Saints, Bears) have more 20-plus yards completions. Malcom Floyd has flopped with a combined 74 yards in two games since replacing Chris Chambers, but Vincent Jackson has another good matchup. With Champ Bailey on Gates, V-Jax should see a lot of Ty Law.
My Pick: Broncos
Cincinnati at Oakland
The Bengals will smartly hold Cedric Benson out of this easy win after he aggravated his hip strain in Week 10. Bernard Scott will start against an Oakland defense that ranks 29th against the run, and has surrendered a league-high 14 rushing TDs.
Don't believe a report that Larry Johnson will play a significant role less than a week after signing with Cincinnati, and use Scott as a high-upside flex/RB2 in a favorable matchup. Scott will be replaced on third downs by Brian Leonard, but has enough explosiveness to hit big plays. The Bengals will also dominate in the trenches.
Chad Ochocinco owners shouldn't be concerned that Nnamdi Asomugha will shut down their WR1. Not only has Asomugha struggled (relative for him) this year, he only lines up at RCB. Ocho moves around as often as any wideout in the league.
He's a must-start with a favorable forecast at the Coliseum (50-60 degrees, 8 MPH winds, 10 percent chance of rain). Carson Palmer can also be used confidently. Oakland's pass defense is as mediocre as ever, and only two teams have yielded more 40-plus yard completions. The Raiders let up 7.6 yards per pass attempt.
Avoid Laveranues Coles and Andre Caldwell. They'll wind up canceling each other out by season's end.
If the Bengals' defense is available in your league, they're a recommended pickup-and-play. The Raiders will start noodle-armed QB Bruce Gradkowski, and he'll likely be on a short leash in favor of an even worse option—JaMarcus Russell.
Gradkowski can't throw the ball downfield, crushing any upside Darrius Heyward-Bey already didn't have. Chaz Schilens has replaced Louis Murphy as Oakland's starting flanker, but Gradkowski's inability to get the ball outside the numbers kills Schilens' fantasy value.
Zach Miller would seemingly be a good fit for Gradkowski's arm, but the duo didn't hook up once after Russell was benched in the third quarter last week. Leave Miller on the waiver wire. The Raiders' ground game should be completely avoided against Cincinnati's No. 2 run defense. Darren McFadden returned from in-season knee surgery in Week 10, but saw just four carries as Oakland's No. 3 back. Michael Bush started and had 119 rushing yards, but won't approach that in this unfavorable matchup. He also lost goal-line carries to Justin Fargas.
Sunday Night Football: Philadelphia at Chicago
This entry is a no-joke zone (much like every other entry on this blog). For the love of God Brian Westbrook: retire. You’ve had two concussions in three weeks. The more you get, the easier they are to accumulate. The more you accumulate, the more likely you are to end up eating cottage cheese without a fork for the last 30 years of your life.
Instead we get this doctor-shopping routine where an athlete who doesn’t want to say stop goes from one end of the country to the other looking for a brain specialist, a neurosurgeon, a GP, or, in a pinch, a guy who failed out of veterinary night school to tell him the answer he wants to hear: that he can keep playing even though that will clearly risk severe and lifelong damage.
Take two examples: Mike Webster and Steve Young. Webster didn’t quit. Young did. Young is a healthy TV analyst today living a full life as a Hall of Famer. Webster is dead and the stories of his last years are heartbreaking episodes of dementia, rage, and family hardship. Don’t do it, Brian. Just walk away while you still can. And Eagles—if he can’t make the decision for himself, you should.
My Pick: Eagles
Monday Night Football: Tennessee at Houston - My Upset Pick
The Titans come into this game red hot on the three game winning streak. Ever since Vince Young regained the starting QB position after the bye week, the defense has played better, and Chris Johnson improved upon his hot start.
The Texans on the other hand are coming off a tough last second loss to the Colts two weeks ago and had a bye week in Week 10 to adjust its offense approach with TE Owen Daniels out for the year (ACL).
Offensively, look for Tennessee to feed the ball to Chris Johnson—on the ground and out of the backfield—and for the second-year star to pick up yards at will on the Texans' defense. In their earlier meeting this season, he amassed nearly 300 total yards and three TDs. He’ll dominate in this one too. Vince Young will be called upon to make plays wit his legs and the short, safe passes to keep the chains moving.
Defensively, Jeff Fisher will focus his attention on WR Andre Johnson and try and take him out of the plan. If he can create a scenario where the only players who can beat him are Kevin Walter and Jacoby Jones in the passing game, he’ll feel good about his chances. On the ground, aside from Ryan Moats stellar performance against the Bills (129 yards, two TD), there hasn’t been much productivity out of the unit, and RB Steve Slaton seems to have fallen out of favor with this coaching staff.
In the end, expect the Titans to win their fourth game in a row, and RB Chris Johnson to be the difference maker.
My Pick: Titans
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