Week 9 Passing & Rushing Matchups To Exploit Or Avoid
As we do every Friday, The Xpert Eye takes a look at the passing and rushing matchups to identify those you should exploit as well as those you should avoid. Of course, during a bye week when six teams are out of the picture, Fantasy owners will inevitably have to use at least a few players whose matchups aren’t exactly favorable. Then again, there will also be opportunities here to use players with good matchups that you might not normally even consider when your usual studs are available. As usual, don’t bench your studs because of the matchup; use these write-ups to make decisions between somewhat equally ranked starters.
Passing Matchups to Exploit
Andy Dalton vs. Jaguars – The Jaguars’ pass defense has actually improved since the beginning of the season, when they struggled mightily against several of the league’s better quarterbacks. Over the last four games they’ve only allowed two passing touchdowns and they’ve held the last three QBs they’ve faced to less than 250 yards. In truth, if A.J. Green doesn’t return to action for this game, I’d think twice about using Dalton. However, Green is expected to play, which opens up the Bengals’ offense enough that the Jaguars won’t be able to contain either the run game or the pass. Tyler Eifert still isn’t practicing, and while I wouldn’t normally recommend Jermaine Gresham as a Fantasy play, the Jaguars have allowed five of those 13 passing scores to the tight end position, which is enough to make me change my mind. Mohamed Sanu stands to lose targets if Green plays, but the main reason Dalton will be successful against the Jags will be that he’ll have two prime targets to throw to if both are on the field.
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Eli Manning vs. Colts – The Colts’ pass defense was virtually non-existent in Week 8 against the Steelers, as Ben Roethlisberger picked the secondary apart for 522 passing yards and six touchdowns. That was due to historically bad defense more so than the performance of Pittsburgh’s talent. The Giants have at least as much talent as the Steelers in the passing game and they’ve had two weeks to prepare for this matchup, so I am expecting big things from Eli Manning and company. The Colts have allowed five of 14 total passing TDs to the tight end position, so Larry Donnell should be a factor in moving the chains and see plenty of action in the red zone. Both Reuben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. should be heavily targeted. As long as the Giants’ offensive line protects Manning and gives him time to throw, there is no reason he can’t rack up 300 yards with at least two scores. The Colts have generated 21 sacks with their pass rush and have six interceptions to date, but after last week’s debacle at the hands of the Steelers they are likely facing a crisis of confidence, and the Giants should be ready to capitalize on it.
Brian Hoyer vs. Buccaneers – Let’s face it, every week we pick on the poor Buccaneers, every week they do exactly what we expect of them – next to nothing – and this week shouldn’t be any different. The Bucs have allowed 16 passing TDs and an average of 286 passing yards per game to opposing QBs. They’ve also allowed an average of 24 Fantasy points per game to QBs, which ties them for fourth-most in the NFL. The Bucs’ pass defense is one of the most generous in the NFL to the WR position too. One dozen of their 16 passing TDs allowed have gone to wide receivers, and the 30 Fantasy points per game they’ve allowed to WRs is tops in the NFL. Brian Hoyer probably won’t have Jordan Cameron available since the TE is reportedly concussed and could miss up to two games while he recovers. The Bucs haven’t been particularly vulnerable to the TE position anyway; it’s all about the wide receiver, and that’s where we could see Hoyer do some damage. Andrew Hawkins has been a favorite target when Hoyer is throwing well and Taylor Gabriel helps move the chains in key situations. Hoyer also likes to turn to Miles Austin in key third down situations, as he trusts the veteran to haul in passes when he really needs a completion. All three wide receivers will have some value in this matchup, though Gabriel and Austin both have low floors and should be considered flex options at best.
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Passing Matchups to Avoid
Philip Rivers vs. Dolphins – Since blowing out the Jets in Week 5 (31-0), the Chargers have struggled; they barely squeaked past the Raiders (31-28) in Week 6, and then dropped games to the Chiefs (23-20) and Broncos (35-21). The problem in all three games was that Rivers succumbed to intense pressure by the opposing defensive lines. In all three cases, the pass rush disrupted Rivers’ ability to get into a groove, and the Chargers had the additional problem of being unable to establish the running game. Ultimately, they were able to run the ball in the second half against the Raiders but they never got the ground game going at all against the Chiefs and Broncos. The Dolphins have a solid pass rush that has generated 21 sacks to date and creates the same sort of disruption that has dogged the Chargers over the last three games. The Fish are the third ranked team against the pass and considered the ninth-best team against the run, so overall they are a very solid defense, perhaps the best the Chargers have faced all season. You can’t bench Philips, who’s been one of the Top 5 Fantasy QBs this season, but you should definitely temper your expectations for this game.
Robert Griffin III vs. Vikings – The Redskins have, “every intent of him starting,” according to Coach Jay Gruden. On general principle alone it’s not a great idea to start a quarterback returning from a long layoff due to injury; add in the fact that this is not good matchup against the Vikings’ pass defense and you have a recipe for Fantasy failure. The Vikings have allowed just 212 passing yards per game on average and they are tied for second in the NFL with 25 sacks. Only the Detroit Lions (16.9 FPPG) have allowed fewer Fantasy points per game to quarterbacks than the Vikings (18.1 FPPG), so this could be a difficult first game back for RGIII.
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Rushing Matchups to Exploit
Ronnie Hillman vs. Patriots – With two 100-plus yard rushing games in his last three starts, Hillman has established himself as the Broncos’ top running back, a job that may be lost to Montee Ball for good, even if he does come back 100 percent healthy at some point. Hillman is undoubtedly talented but it doesn’t hurt to have one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the history of the game running your offense; there’s no doubt that the Broncos’ passing game opens up opportunities for the running game that wouldn’t exist without Manning under center. In addition, the Patriots’ rush defense has fallen apart without on-field captain Jerod Mayo at the middle linebacker position. In the two games played since Mayo was lost to a torn patella tendon, the Patriots have been gashed in the running game by the Jets (218 yards) and Bears (153 yards). In fact, given their overall 130 average rush yards allowed, the Patriots defense against the run wasn’t all that good even with Mayo. Both Hillman (shoulder) and change of pace/goal line back Juwan Thompson (knee) are banged up, but both are expected to play and should have productive games against the Patriots. However, the Patriots have allowed just four rushing touchdowns and tend to bend but not break on defense in general. So don’t expect touchdowns from the Denver RBs, as they’re not likely to even get a shot in the red zone.
Denard Robinson vs. Bengals – After a pair of games in which Robinson has crossed the century mark in rushing yards, there is almost no chance at all that Toby Gerhart will regain the starting job for Jacksonville. Robinson has 235 rushing yards in 40 carries over the past two games, good enough for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. That would be the best such rate in the NFL among RBs if it wasn’t just two games worth of effort. The Bengals have allowed an average of 140.7 yards per game this season along with eight rushing TDs. Running backs have averaged 21.9 FPPG courtesy of the Bengals and scored 7 of the 8 rushing TDs allowed by Cincy (the other was a QB). Aside from Gerhart, who is finally healthy, there aren’t any other Jaguars’ RBs to steal opportunities from Robinson (phooey on Storm Johnson!), so as long as the score doesn’t get so lopsided that the Jags are forced to abandon the running game, he should have another 100-yard day and could score up to two TDs on the flat-footed Cincy defense.
Rushing Matchups to Avoid
Chris Ivory vs. Chiefs – Despite the Jets’ terrible offense in general terms, Ivory has been a pleasant surprise in the ground game. He’s had three games with more than 100 combined yards and fell four yards shy of 100 in a fourth; there have been two games in which he rushed for more than 100 yards, including a 107 yard effort against the Patriots just two weeks ago. However, Michael Vick will be the starting QB against Kansas City and his play of late isn’t going to scare the Chiefs at all. In fact, the Chiefs are very likely to stack the box and challenge Vick to beat them with the passing game, something the Jets don’t do well regardless of who the quarterback is. The Chiefs enter this game allowing an average of 113 rushing yards per game to opponents, but they have yet to allow a single rushing touchdown, the only NFL team able to make that claim. Overall, the Chiefs allow an average of just 12.8 FPPG to running backs, a rate bested by only two teams. In short, playing at home in the friendly (and loud) confines of Arrowhead Stadium, the Chiefs should have a marked advantage over the hapless Jets. Chris Ivory and whomever else Rex Ryan decides to run out there against the Chiefs’ defense will be in for a difficult and unproductive game.
St. Louis Rams’ running backs vs. 49ers – Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham and Zac Stacy comprise the Rams’ rushing brigade, but instead of being a three-headed monster capable of running over opposing defenses, each head ends up pulling in a different direction and sapping the whole thing of any worth – Fantasy or in real football terms. Coach Jeff Fisher is doing the Rams a disservice by not committing to any of his three backs as a “lead” runner, and the results bear this out. The recent loss of left tackle Jake Long doesn’t help either. The 49ers’ defense has allowed an average of 85 rushing yards per game and they’ve allowed just five rushing TDs this season to date. In addition, the Niners have allowed running backs an average of just 14 FPPG, only five teams have allowed a lower amount. The only RB that can boast of a big game against San Francisco this season is DeMarco Murray, who tagged them for 118 yards in the season opener. Since then, only one RB (Jamaal Charles) ran for more than 75 yards against them. The entire Rams’ RB corps belongs on your bench for this matchup.
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