Strong Plays, Weak Plays - Week 13
Welcome to another year of KFFL's "Strong Plays, Weak Plays" feature. Here, we'll identify strong matchups of interest that you can exploit as well as determine a few weak matchups in which you might want to consider benching your normal starter in favor of a backup. Our intention is not to tell you the obvious, such as "Start LaDainian Tomlinson!" or "Start Peyton Manning!" Instead, it is to point out some matchups involving players who aren't considered fantasy stars. Of course, we'll sometimes highlight a top fantasy player's matchup if it is an especially noteworthy strong or weak play.
Important, Please Read! Remember, just because a player has a strong-play matchup does not mean that it is an automatic endorsement as a starter. It does provide you with some valuable information to make decisions, though. As an example, some players with the "Strong Play" tag may still be a No. 4 fantasy wideout and shouldn't be started ahead of your normal starters. He just may have greater potential than normal but not enough to warrant a definite benching of someone else for him. Conversely, if a player is on the "Weak Play" list, he may not be an automatic bench, either. A stud won't have an easy matchup every week. However, he's a stud because he can overcome the weak-play situation.
Quarterbacks - Strong Plays
Campbell continues to post respectable numbers for the Redskins. Despite some flubs in his decision-making, he has thrown for more than 300 yards in his last two games. He has also realized that tight end Chris Cooley was in his lineup, and he has continued to rely on him as a security blanket. Veteran wide receiver Keenan McCardell has added another component to his game as he has offered Campbell another short-route option.
The Bills might be victimized by routes of all distances as they have allowed an average of 270.2 passing yards on just 36 attempts. Even when excluding the dissection New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady performed on them (31-for-39, 373 yards, five touchdowns), the Bills allowed Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard to throw for 296 yards on them last week. Campbell is on an upswing, and he should be a No. 1 fantasy quarterback this week.
Running Backs - Strong Plays
With running back Shaun Alexander (knee) missing time due to injury lately, Morris has performed an admirable job in the featured back role. He has accumulated more than 100 yards in two of his last three games. However, Alexander has practiced with the first team this past week and is expected to start in Week 13.
Even with Alexander's return, Morris could still get his fair share of touches. The Eagles have let opposing running backs beat them in both rushing and receiving (even though the Patriots' pass-heavy attack helped to dwindle those numbers), and Morris is still expected to get some work in the offense. Morris' value clearly takes a hit, but he can still be played as an injury replacement due to his strong matchup this Sunday.
Smith reveled in his first extended playing time, running 31 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns against the sad Oakland Raiders run defense. This could be seen as a favorable schedule for the first-time starter, but Smith looks to be in line with another great statistical opportunity in Week 13 against the Chargers, who have allowed more than 150 rushing yards per game to the position over the last four games. The average of 1.50 touchdowns over that same span doesn't hurt Smith's stock, either.
Sure, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson's record-setting performance of 296 rushing yards in Week 9 has skewed those numbers, but the Chargers gave up 123 yards to Chiefs running back Larry Johnson (foot) in their last meeting. With another healthy body in the backfield and quarterback Brodie Croyle (back) expected to miss this week's game, the Chiefs should lean on Smith for the second straight week. Play Smith with confidence as a No. 2 running back.
Wide Receivers - Strong Plays
Johnson has finally had the light-bulb moment for offensive coordinator Mike Martz's system and has healed from his back injury. The rookie has hauled in a touchdown in his last two games, and on Thanksgiving he compiled a season-high seven receptions for 83 yards against the Green Bay Packers.
The Vikings come off a game in which they pilfered New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning with four interceptions (three of them were returned from touchdowns). That performance has not been the norm for their defense, which is more heavily credited with stopping the run. Johnson represents an average No. 2 play and a solid No. 3 option this week.
When asked this week if wide receiver Marvin Harrison (knee) would be back for Week 13, quarterback Peyton Manning said "Don't count on it." What you might be able to count on is Gonzalez (thumb) for your fantasy team this week. During Week 12 Gonzalez accounted for six receptions and 105 yards against the Atlanta Falcons and assumed a more frequent role in the Colts offense with eight looks.
In Week 13, the Jaguars could give Gonzalez another shot at a big week. Jacksonville ranks near the bottom of the league in pass defense over the last month, and with Harrison's status still up in the air Gonzalez could face a similar amount of looks. He stands as a moderate No. 3 wideout or an injury replacement.
As a complement to tight end Kellen Winslow and wide receiver Braylon Edwards (hamstring), Jurevicius continues to rack up stable fantasy numbers. He has posted a total of 19 receptions over the last five weeks while catching at least four passes in each of those games. Despite his absence from the end zone since Week 4, he has been a quietly stable fantasy contributor.
The Cardinals could help him continue his pattern. As shown above, Arizona has been bruised by wide receivers over the last four weeks, ranking among the worst teams in both receptions and touchdowns allowed. This game could be a shootout and Jurevicius could play a part. If you need a fill-in for a receiver slot, insert Jurevicius as a No. 3 option.
Tight End - Strong Play
Quarterback Trent Dilfer's ascension to the starting role scares many fantasy owners. At second glance, it could help the owners of Davis, who grabbed six receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown last week against the Cardinals. Over the last four weeks Davis has averaged seven looks per game, accounting for almost 12 percent of the team's total utilization. He has also averaged one look per game in the red zone.
Carolina has been kind to tight ends over the last month, allowing one touchdown per game to the position. That's the worst figure in the league over that span. If you need a tight end, Davis is a low-tier option there this week, and he might even be available in your league's free agent pool.
Place Kicker - Strong Play
Janikowski has been the beneficiary of some favorable matchups during the last month and has posted 8.8 kicking points per game over that time; Oakland's offense hasn't been much of a help. This trend could continue against the Broncos.
The Broncos have allowed 11 kicker points per contest in the last month. Janikowski isn't the most consistent kicker, but he could give you some numbers, especially if Oakland continues to fall short offensively and settle for field goals. Janikowski is a high-tier No. 1 option this week.
Team Defense - Strong Play
This is not a typo. The Niners did allow 31 points and 552 net yards to the Cardinals in Week 12. However, in contrast to their massive yardage totals allowed over the last four weeks, the Niners have been prolific in defensive pressure, averaging almost three sacks per game over that span.
With the state of the Panthers' quarterback position, the Niners could take advantage again this week. The Panthers offense has averaged just 9.2 points per game while allowing the same amount of sacks that the Niners defense has achieved in that time. The Niners make for a low-end No. 1 defense for Week 13.
Quarterback - Weak Play
Young's numbers through the last three games are a product of the team playing from behind and losing three straight. He has posted three consecutive games of more than 245 yards passing, eclipsing his previous season-high of 184 yards. While he has thrown for two touchdowns in each of his last three games, he continues to turn the ball over, losing two in each game during their losing streak.
The Texans defense, despite losing three starting cornerbacks, has been playing well of late, tying for the league lead with an average of two interceptions per game over the last month. Their shaky run defense seems to be their weak point, and the Titans may look to exploit that this week, thus abandoning the pass. Young should be viewed as a low-end No. 1 quarterback option.
Running Backs - Weak Plays
Peterson is set to make his first start of the season this week, after carrying the ball 17 times for 45 yards and a touchdown in a relief role last Sunday. He is replacing running back Cedric Benson (ankle) who was placed on Injured Reserve after suffering an ankle injury in their last game.
This week he faces a Giants team that is coming off a strong performance against Minnesota Vikings running back Chester Taylor, holding him to a paltry 2.5 yards-per-carry average. Peterson's ability as a receiver doesn't seem to bode well against the Giants as well, as they are holding opposing backs to just three receptions over the last month. Peterson should be considered a moderate No. 2 or No. 3 option.
Graham has been a dominant back over the last month, running the ball for more than 100 yards in two of his last three games, scoring a touchdown in each. Last week, he managed to net 84 total yards and a touchdown for a team that was only able to muster 192 net yards of offense. Running back Michael Pittman (ankle) was expected to cut into Graham's playing time, but after suffering another injury, he may not be a factor in the offense any time soon.
The Saints defense has been able to turn things around a bit, holding opposing running backs to just 80.8 yards rushing per game and one total touchdown to the position over the last month. Despite his weak play matchup, Graham still rates as a moderate No. 1 or solid No. 2 option.
Wide Receivers - Weak Plays
The Titans passing game hasn't been the most exciting, but one player has been able to step out of a muddled group of receivers to be an effective option. Gage has hauled in 17 receptions for 254 yards and a one touchdown over his last three games, becoming the team leader in receptions.
This week he faces a Texans team that has worked through injuries to be one of the better secondaries over the last month. They are allowing less than 10 receptions per game to the position, which when combined with an already inconsistent Titans passing game could make it difficult for Gage to produce. He should be considered no better than a No. 3 option.
Chambers pulled in five passes last week for 22 yards and a touchdown. His five receptions ties his previous high with the team that he set in Week 9, and he now has two touchdowns from the arm of quarterback Philip Rivers.
The Chiefs secondary allowed 15 receptions for 170 and no touchdowns last week against the Raiders. Their defense has been susceptible to the running game, and with running back LaDainian Tomlinson on the Chargers roster, it is safe to say that they could be running the ball a lot. Chambers is a moderate No. 3 option or injury replacement.
The team will be without starting quarterback Marc Bulger (concussion) this Sunday, and he is expected to be replaced by quarterback Gus Frerotte. Fantasy owners should remember the debacle that occurred in his last start, turning the ball over six times; five of which were interceptions. Last week, Holt totaled 54 yards receiving while Bruce totaled 63 yards and a touchdown.
This week they face a tough Falcons secondary that is third in the league in reception yards against and are among the top five in touchdowns against over the last month. They are also allowing the second-fewest amount of receptions to the position over that same span. Both Holt and Bruce should be viewed as no more than solid No. 2 options in the passing game.
Tight End - Weak Play
Scheffler has emerged as one of quarterback Jay Cutler's favorite options in the passing game, which has given him some value, particularly in leagues with point-per-reception scoring. He had a solid game last week, hauling in five passes for 82 yards, including a nice touchdown grab. He continues to get a good amount of looks averaging 5.25 per game while being targeted an average of 0.5 times per contest inside the red zone.
He faces a difficult matchup this week against the Raiders, who are allowing a small number of receptions and touchdowns to the position. Although they have been limiting receiving options from the position, they have allowed the fourth-highest amount of receiving yards per game over the last month. Scheffler is a marginal No. 1 option and could be considered a bench play if a better option is available.
Place Kicker - Weak Play
The lack of an effective offense has limited Stover's opportunities. Since Week 9, Stover has averaged just four points per game, which is good for the second-lowest average in the league among place kickers.
The same thing has been said on a weekly basis for kickers facing the Patriots defense. Their chances continue to be limited due to the Patriots' explosive offense that leaves teams in the dust and fighting to catch up. This week should be no different for Stover and the Ravens making him one of the weakest kicking options this week.
Team Defense - Weak Play
In what is shaping up to be one of the better games this week, the Jaguars head into the RCA Dome to face a Colts team that might have found their second wind. The Colts offense got a shot in the arm last week with the return of two of their offensive weapons; tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Anthony Gonzalez. Over the last four weeks, the Jaguars have been generous to opposing teams in points and yards allowed per game, while racking up a surprisingly low numbers of sacks and forced turnovers.
The Colts offense had been slumping prior to their Thanksgiving Day matchup, allowing an abnormal amount of sacks and turnovers during that time. This could be a difficult matchup for the Jaguars if the Colts are indeed catching their second wind. The Jaguars defense should be seen as a low-tier No. 1 unit this week.
About Richard Garcia
Garcia served as a managing editor for KFFL. Prior to his time with KFFL, Richard worked in managerial roles with both Frito-Lay Inc. and UPS. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in public relations from California State Polytechnic University-Pomona and fulfilled his internship requirements with the Los Angeles Kings Hockey organization in 2001.
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