Monday Night Football
NY Jets vs. Buffalo
Jets-Bills has a 42-point over-under, up three points after this game was moved from snowstormed Buffalo to the Ford Field dome in Detroit. It’s still the second lowest over-under of Week 12. … Now ostensibly locked in as New York’s starting quarterback, Michael Vick has gone 31-of-46 passing (67.4%) for 328 yards (7.13 YPA) and a 3:0 TD-to-INT ratio with 57 rushing yards through two starts. Jets OC Marty Mornhinweg has called plays very conservatively with Vick at quarterback, likely in an effort to keep him under control. Vick is just a two-QB-league option against the Bills, who will likely dominate in the trenches with their star-studded defensive line. Buffalo’s defense is an excellent fantasy bet in this game. … Vick’s target distribution this season: Eric Decker 23; Percy Harvin 22; Jace Amaro 10; Jeremy Kerley 8; Chris Johnson 4; Jeff Cumberland 3; Greg Salas and T.J. Graham 2; Chris Ivory 1. … Decker’s stat lines are 9-63-1 and 3-24-0 in Vick’s two starts, which provides very little clarity. He caught seven balls for 40 scoreless yards when the Jets played the Bills in late October. I still think Decker is a better WR3 option than he’s perceived to be, but you can’t go in with big expectations. He hasn’t topped 75 receiving yards all year. … Harvin is averaging nine targets per game since becoming a Jet three games ago, and has racked up 11 rushing attempts. Mornhinweg goes out of his way to scheme Harvin the ball. It’s translated to just one big week amongst three so far. But Harvin’s usage rate keeps his floor and ceiling high. He’s a viable fantasy WR3. Since playing only 53% of the snaps in his first week as a Jet, Harvin has logged snap rates of 84% and 67%.
Amaro, Kerley, and the rest of New York’s pass catchers are non-factors in fantasy. Amaro is a streamer option to avoid against a Bills defense that ranks 25th in fantasy points allowed to tight ends. … The Bills rank No. 8 in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA and have limited opposing running backs to 3.66 yards per carry on the season. Chris Ivory scored two touchdowns when these clubs met in October, but managed 43 yards on 13 carries and wasn’t involved in the passing game. He’s the only Jets running back worth fantasy consideration in this game, but Ivory is ultimately a TD-dependent flex play. … Chris Johnson had a big game — by his standards — in Week 9 against Kansas City, totaling 101 yards. His role in Mornhinweg’s offense hasn’t changed, however. Johnson’s snap rates over his last three games are 19%, 39%, and 28% with corresponding touch totals of 5, 13, and 8. I doubt Buffalo will have a hard time slowing him down.
The flaws of career backup quarterbacks tend to get exposed the more they play, and that’s become the case for Kyle Orton. Increasingly a checkdown machine and unable to get anything going outside the numbers, Orton has gone 51-of-87 passing (58.6%) for 452 yards (5.20 YPA) and one touchdown pass over his last two games. Orton is still a smart enough player to get rid of the football and avoid high totals of sacks and turnovers, but he’s played his way out of QB1 streamer consideration, even against the Jets’ porous pass defense. Coming off a Week 11 bye, Rex Ryan had two weeks to dissect Orton’s tape. After coach Doug Marrone offered Orton a tepid endorsement during his Monday press conference, I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of E.J. Manuel entering if Orton starts slow. … Orton’s target distribution through six starts: Sammy Watkins 42; Robert Woods 35; Scott Chandler 32; Fred Jackson 23; Chris Hogan 31; Bryce Brown 20; Anthony Dixon 6; Chris Gragg 5; Marquise Goodwin 4; Mike Williams 3. … Orton’s checkdown tendencies do bode well for Jackson, who returns this week after resting his groin during last Thursday night’s loss to Miami. In the absence of F-Jax, Orton has heavily targeted running backs and slot receivers, and Jackson is Buffalo’s best passing-game back. A matchup with New York’s top-four run defense makes Jackson a less attractive flex option in non-PPR leagues, but he should be in PPR lineups as a candidate for 5-8 receptions. This game sets up well for Orton to fire off a ton of high-percentage dump-offs.
Orton’s unwillingness and/or inability to connect downfield is killing Watkins in the box score, but he’s still worth firing up against a Jets team that has allowed 11 touchdown passes to wide receivers through ten games. The Jets don’t have a cornerback capable of containing Watkins, who dusted Rex’s defense for 3-157-1 on six targets when these clubs played in late October. Watkins is a realistic WR2 at domed Ford Field. … Slot man Hogan and “Z” receiver Woods run possession routes and require heavy volume to pay fantasy dividends. Both have good hands and are capable of delivering decent PPR stat lines, as Hogan did last week against the Dolphins (7-74) and Woods accomplished in Week 10 against the Chiefs (6-52). Neither is a good bet for touchdowns. Hogan has been the more consistent producer of late. … Chandler is another complementary player in Buffalo’s passing game who lacks big-play ability and has cleared 40 yards twice through ten games. He went goose egg in last week’s loss to Miami. Aim higher for a TE1 streamer. … The Bills’ running back workloads behind F-Jax are uncertain. When all three backs were active in Week 10 versus Kansas City, Bryce Brown played 36% of Buffalo’s offensive snaps and finished with a team-high 16 touches, although Jackson was playing at less than 100% health. Anthony Dixon played 29% of the downs and touched the ball nine times. Because of his plodding running style, Dixon is the Bills’ back least likely to have box-score success against the Jets’ stout front. It’s conceivable that Brown will stay involved in the old C.J. Spiller role, seeing in the range of 8-16 touches. Bills running backs should be ranked Jackson > Brown > Dixon for Week 12.
Score Prediction: Bills 20, Jets 17
Baltimore @ New Orleans
The over-under on Ravens-Saints is 51 points, second highest of Week 12. Host New Orleans is only a three-point favorite, so a healthy dose of scoring is expected on both sides. … Baltimore’s likeliest means of offensive success will be with its running game at the Superdome. Ranked No. 28 in Football Outsiders’ run-defense DVOA metric, the Saints are one week removed from coughing up a combined 31-174 rushing line to Bengals RBs Jeremy Hill, Cedric Peerman, and Rex Burkhead, who combined to average 5.61 yards per carry. It can’t hurt that New Orleans has allowed the seventh most rushing TDs in football (10). Quietly seventh in the NFL in rushing yards (721) and second to only DeMarco Murray in 20-plus-yard runs (8), Justin Forsett is a legitimate fantasy RB1 in this matchup. … A Jekyll & Hyde defense all season, Rob Ryan‘s Saints were carved up by previously-struggling Andy Dalton for 16-of-22 passing (72.7%), 220 yards, and three touchdowns in last week’s home loss to Cincinnati. Joe Flacco is always difficult to trust as a QB1 streamer, but has a good enough matchup to pay off. The Ravens’ offensive line is at full strength coming off its Week 11 bye, and Flacco should benefit from playing indoors, a factor that shouldn’t be taken lightly by fantasy owners this time of year. At very least, Flacco is an excellent two-quarterback-league option.
Flacco’s 2014 target distribution in games where Owen Daniels has served as Baltimore’s primary tight end: Steve Smith Sr. 43; Daniels 38; Torrey Smith 36; Forsett 21; Kyle Juszczyk 13; Marlon Brown 10; Kamar Aiken 8; Crockett Gillmore 6; Lorenzo Taliaferro 5. … Although Smith Sr.’s production has fallen off a cliff since a red-hot start, this is a logical bounce-back spot. The indoor environment helps, and Smith is returning from a bye to rest his 35-year-old legs. Because Steve Sr. moves around the formation so much, my guess is Saints top CB Keenan Lewis will either end up playing all left cornerback or shadowing Torrey rather than Steve. If Steve Sr. gets matched up with burnable RCB Corey White and slot CB Patrick Robinson as I suspect he very well might, a blowup performance could be in order. Treat Steve Sr. as a high-ceiling WR3 play. Although Torrey’s scoring pace has picked up considerably since his sluggish start, he’s still in the boom-or-bust WR3 category. It would be just like “89” to rip the cover off in front of a national audience on Monday Night Football. … Another nod in Steve Sr.’s favor is the Saints’ stymieing of tight ends. New Orleans has allowed the fewest fantasy points in the league to the position. Daniels remains in the fantasy TE1 mix due to his high-volume role in OC Gary Kubiak‘s offense and this game’s potentially high-scoring outcome.
The Saints’ loss of Brandin Cooks creates opportunity for the rest of New Orleans’ pass catchers. Although Cooks had been an up-and-down producer in his own right, he ranked second on the team in targets (6.9 per game) and receptions (53), behind only Jimmy Graham. The first-round pick was playing 73% of the snaps. I don’t think we can say for certain that one specific Saints player will benefit, and it’s conceivable that everyone will. I think the likeliest box-score beneficiary is Kenny Stills, who is left as New Orleans’ only wideout capable of both handling a voluminous passing-game role and taking the top off of defenses. If Stills sees more targets — and he definitely should — he will have a higher fantasy floor while his ceiling stays intact. He’s an upside WR3 against the Jimmy Smith-less Ravens. … While Stills will run routes versus Ravens perimeter corners RCB Anthony Levine (a converted safety) and LCB Danny Gorrer (claimed off waivers November 4), Marques Colston will primarily do battle with Ravens slot CB Lardarius Webb. Webb has had a rough 2014, battling myriad injuries, but should be healthier coming off a bye. Colston is an increasingly stable WR3 option with Cooks out of the way, but I don’t like his matchup as much as Stills’ on paper. … The Ravens allow the seventh fewest fantasy points to tight ends, but Graham obviously gets started every week. Through ten games, Graham is on pace for just nearly 94 receptions, 997 yards, and 12 touchdowns.
I think it’s worth wondering if the removal of Cooks might actually help New Orleans’ passing game. The offense should become more streamlined and defined, and Cooks’ playmaking ability was all too infrequently put on display running so many routes at and even behind the line of scrimmage. The Ravens’ front seven is nasty and will surely cause Drew Brees some problems on Monday night, but I’d expect him to have a big game attacking Levine and Gorrer. … The expected return of Pierre Thomas (ribs/shoulder) should mean less for Mark Ingram‘s fantasy outlook than it does for Travaris Cadet, who may not even play after missing practice time this week with a hamstring injury. I’d be more concerned about Ingram if fellow early-down ball carrier Khiry Robinson (arm) were coming back. Robinson will miss at least one more game, ensuring Ingram stays in the 18-24 touch range against Baltimore. The Ravens’ run defense is stout — they rank top ten in Football Outsiders DVOA and have held opposing running backs to 3.53 yards per carry — but volume shouldn’t be a problem for Ingram, who will remain a solid bet for a goal-line score. Perhaps he’s more high-end RB2 than RB1 this week, but Ingram should be in fantasy lineups. … Thomas hasn’t played since October 19 due to multiple injuries. Whether he’ll be “eased in” against the Ravens remains to be seen. It’s hard to imagine investing in Thomas after more than a month away, but his potency in the Saints’ screen game was sorely missed. His return is good news for Brees.
Score Prediction: Saints 27, Ravens 21
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