November 26, 2012 @ 17:01:15 PDT
But their lack of depth at the back end of Wade Phillips' 3-4 continues to present issues in aerial resistance for what had been considered an elite D most of the year.
The injuries to Brian Cushing (torn ACL) and Brooks Reed (groin) have thinned out the linebackers. Though getting Darryl Sharpton back may help, their coverage from this position has been exploited. Whitney Mercilus, who'll at least chiefly replace Reed at LOLB, is more of a pass pressure commodity, which may cure their blitz dullness so they don't have to lean on J.J. Watt. Still, the rookie Mercilus is hardly a cure for the other schematic ailments. A situational rotation will only add to the potential problems.
This lines up nicely for Jared Cook in Week 13.
The underutilized weapon reminded us of his presence with a six-catch (season high), 47-yard Week 12 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Cook's 6-foot-5, 248-pound build should serve the Tennessee Titans well over the middle, as Houston's secondary struggles to contain Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright, Nate Washington and even Damian Williams when they're not creeping up to contain Chris Johnson. They'll want to control things as much as possible versus the 10-1 Texans.
In the last month, Houston has allowed 14.3 points per game to the position (point-per-reception formats), tied for the eighth highest average. This has come on the backs of Marcedes Lewis (three grabs, 40 yards, two touchdowns) and Brandon Pettigrew (eight receptions, 74 yards), who aren't far off from what Cook offers.
This isn't meant to put Jake Locker in the same category as Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford - elite slingers who've conquered Houston this year - but Locker should at least yield 75 percent of the surprising Chad Henne performance from Week 11.
Locker looked Cook's way eight times in Week 12 (tying the receiver's 2012 high), the first contest following Tennessee's bye, when Locker had a chance to reflect on and dissect his Week 10 return. Despite blocking TE Taylor Thompson's increasing presence, the Titans, for what it's worth, asserted a few weeks ago that they'll use Cook more frequently after the snare requested a trade last month.
It'll be enough, at least for one contest, to make Cook a borderline No. 1 play (especially in point-per-reception leagues) and an ideal target if you're cycling options to replace Rob Gronkowski (forearm) or stick with your TE week-to-week strategy. Upcoming games versus the Indianapolis Colts, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers and Jacksonville Jaguars don't look too shabby, either.
About Tim Heaney
Tim's work has been featured by USA Today/Sports Weekly, among numerous outlets, and recognized as a finalist in the Fantasy Sports Writers Association awards. The Boston University alum, who competes in the prestigious LABR and Tout Wars, has won numerous industry leagues in both baseball and football.
He appears frequently, including every Sunday, on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, as well as every Wednesday on 1570 AM WNST in Baltimore.
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