FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 3
2012
*NYG at CAR (THU) *DET at TEN *NE at BAL SF at MIN
*ATL at SD HOU at DEN *NYJ at MIA *STL at CHI
*BUF at CLE *JAC at IND *PHI at ARI TB at DAL
*Updated *CIN at WAS *KC at NO *PIT at OAK *GB at SEA (MON)

Prediction: HOU 27, DEN 24 (Line: HOU by 2)

Players to Watch: Owen Daniels

This should be a great game to watch. The 2-0 Texans hit the road after dominating both the Dolphins and Jaguars. The Broncos return home on a short week after losing to the Falcons on Monday night. Where this game turns is that the Broncos have not faced any decent rushing attack and now faces one of the best backfields in the NFL. And the Texans are #1 against quarterbacks but that was built up playing Ryan Tannehill in his first NFL game and a freebie going against Blaine Gabbert. This game should end up with the Texans but it won't be easy or over early. Enough unknowns here to make this a coin flip game.

Houston Texans
Homefield: Reliant Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 MIA 30-10 10 @CHI -----
2 @JAC 27-7 11 JAC -----
3 @DEN ----- 12 @DET -----
4 TEN ----- 13 @TEN -----
5 @NYJ ----- 14 @NE -----
6 GB ----- 15 IND -----
7 BAL ----- 16 MIN -----
8 BYE ----- 17 @IND -----
9 BUF ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
HOU @ DEN Rush Catch Pass
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 220,2
RB Arian Foster 80,1 3-20
WR Andre Johnson 6-80,1

Pregame Notes: The started about as well as could be hoped. The defense squashed both opponents while the running game trampled them for plenty of yards and scores. Matt Schaub opened the season with 266 yards and one score against the Dolphins but the Jacksonville game became a laugher and was controlled by Arian Foster (28-110, TD) and B en Tate (12-74, 2 TD). This is an offense predicated on the run and with the blocking to allow this throw back to the old power rushing ways of the NFL to thrive. A stingy defense only encourages more rushing.

Arian Foster and Ben Tate are must start players though Tate's production tends to fluctuate far more than Foster who has been good for 26 carries per game after two weeks. That is a pace for 430 carries and will slow down soon enough. Maybe this week. The Broncos have not allowed more than 43 rushing yards to any runner and that is maybe one quarter's worth from Tate and Foster. Something has to break and it probably not going to be the so far unstoppable rushing tandem.

This week will see the Andre Johnson vs. Champ Bailey matchup unless the Texans can somehow move Johnson around to get a mismatch. But the Texans have no other wideout of any concern to a secondary let alone as good as the Broncos. No other wideout for the Texans has more than 34 yards in any game. The lone passing score went to Johnson.

But Owen Daniels has been the second best target behind Johnson and turns in around five catches per game. That's high production in this offense and an advantage this week against a team that has allowed tight end scores each week.

The Houston defense can dictate this game if they can rattle Manning and that would mean more rushing attempts. But the Broncos are legitimately a better team with Manning there so just rushing would be a luxury likely not afforded in this road game. This game is a measuring stick as well after opening the year with two cakewalks.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points HOU 32 1 31 14 8 14
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 15 7 18 18 10 9

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Ryan Mallett, HOU CIN 0000023011 **
Mallett wasn't bad out of the gate with a two-TD effort in his first NFL start. He had two weeks to prep for that game, however; now he has just a week and gets a Cincy D that just held Drew Brees in check at home. Tough to like his chances of a repeat.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Alfred Blue, HOU CIN 6012100000 **
If Arian Foster's getting his, odds are Blue isn't getting his. Use Blue only if Foster isn't ready to return from his injury. You even have to be wary of Houston's coach speak, as the last time they said Foster would be eased back into the mix he handled 25 touches to Blue's five.
Update: Foster is officially listed as questionable after sitting out practice both Thursday and Friday. Looks like you'll have to sweat this decision out right up through pre-game deactivations.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Arian Foster, HOU CIN 5002100000 *
If healthy, Foster's an every-week starter--and a Cincy D that's given up 384 yards from scrimmage and three TDs to opposing running backs in just the past two games should make him feel extremely comfortable.
Update: Foster's only practice session this week was a limited go on Wednesday, and he's officially listed as questionable. Might have to watch this one right up to kickoff to determine if he'll play--and if he plays, it's a favorable enough matchup that he belongs in your fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU CIN 005801000 ***
Hopkins and Andre Johnson are essentially splitting the passing game looks, with the key difference being Hopkins has four times as many touchdowns as AJ. Both are viable, but Hopkins a bit more reliable of a fantasy option.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Andre Johnson, HOU CIN 006700000 ***
Johnson tends to get similar targets to DeAndre Hopkins, and his yardage is usually solid; it's his lack of end zone visits that makes him a shaky fantasy option.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Garrett Graham, HOU CIN 002200000 ***
It's been a month since the Bengals allowed a TE TD; just because Graham found the end zone last week doesn't mean he's a safe bet to return here.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Randy Bullock, HOU CIN 3322 ****
Bullock's been hot of late, with three three-FG games in the past month. He's also been much more active on the road, as four of his five games with double-digit points have come away from home. Split the difference with Bullock as a good-not-great fantasy option this week.

Denver Broncos
Homefield: Invesco Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PIT 31-19 10 @CAR -----
2 @ATL 21-27 11 SD -----
3 HOU ----- 12 @KC -----
4 OAK ----- 13 TB -----
5 @NE ----- 14 @OAK -----
6 @SD ----- 15 @BAL -----
7 BYE ----- 16 CLE -----
8 NO ----- 17 KC -----
9 @CIN ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
DEN vs HOU Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 250,2
WR Emmanuel Sanders 2-30
WR Demaryius Thomas 5-70,1
WR Wes Welker 7-80
TE Jacob Tamme 3-30

Pregame Notes: Tough loss at Atlanta on Monday night and now a short week to prepare to meet the NFL's best rushing attack. Peyton Manning made a game of it in Atlanta despite throwing three interceptions to open the game. That makes two weeks and around 250 passing yards in each matchup. Back at home should be better but then again it means there is now two weeks of tape to review about the Colts offense with Manning at the helm. This team will live and die with whatever Manning does and this will be his third tough defense to start the year.

Willis McGahee was already effective with 64 yards on 16 runs against the Steelers and then cranked it up in Atlanta with 113 yards and two touchdowns on 22 runs. He gets spelled by Knowshon Moreno and Lance Ball but he's the primary back here that has yet to turn in a bad game. He's proving a very nice value to fantasy owners who picked him up towards the end of starting running backs.

Under Manning there has been only two consistent receivers. Eric Decker has games of 5-54 and 4-53. And Demaryius Thomas has a touchdown in each game along with a team high 18 targets for 13 receptions and 188 yards. Thomas is the main weapon in the passing game while Decker just provides a possession role. No other receiver has mattered - even Jacob Tamme only caught two passes for 13 yards on Monday night.

This will be the toughest defense yet faced by the Broncos but it will be at home. And no matter the mistakes he might make, Manning is never out and always dangerous.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 9 26 10 10 28 1
Preventing Fantasy Points HOU 1 18 2 1 1 8

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Peyton Manning, DEN MIA 0000030030 ***
Forget last week's aberration in St. Louis; Manning is money at home, with at least three TD tosses in every game and an average of 318 yards per home contest. The Dolphins haven't allowed so much as a 300 yard game this year, but it's Manning so anything's possible.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB C.J. Anderson, DEN MIA 7006600000 ***
Looks like Anderson will be the lead dog in Denver this week, against a Miami defense that hasn't let a back go for 50 yards against them in a month. Expect him to pick up a little fantasy help in the passing game, which combined with his share of the run game makes a tidy little fantasy package.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN MIA 0081101000 ***
With or without Emmanuel Sanders, whether or not Brent Grimes plays him man-up the entire game, Thomas is an every-week fantasy starter.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN MIA 004601000 **
If Sanders is cleared from his concussion he belongs in your fantasy lineup, but that's a decision we won't know until later in the week.
Update: Sanders did not practice until Friday, at which point he got in a full session. The official injury report lists him as probable, so the expectation is he'll return from his concussion and play this week. And if he's playing, he belongs in your fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Wes Welker, DEN MIA 005500000 ***
Welker could see some extra looks with Emmanuel Sanders out with a concussion, but it's going to take no Sanders in the lineup for Welker to warrant fantasy attention.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Andre Caldwell, DEN MIA 004500000 ***
The Broncos have options if Emmanuel Sanders can't go, with Caldwell being one of them. He'd warrant fantasy attention if Sanders is ruled out; otherwise he's just going to remain a fantasy afterthought.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Julius Thomas, DEN MIA 003200000 *
It isn't a great matchup, but if Thomas recovers from his ankle injury in time to play he's an every-week fantasy starter. No Thomas, no need to reach for his backups.
Update: Thomas did not practice all week, and his official "questionable" designation seems optimistic. You should have a Plan B at the ready.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Brandon McManus, DEN MIA 2133 ***
Tacking on points for Peyton Manning's offense hasn't been as productive as you might think--just one double-digit points game in the past six and only two all year. So keep your expectations in check with McManus and you'll be just fine.

WEEK 3
2012
*NYG at CAR (THU) *DET at TEN *NE at BAL SF at MIN
*ATL at SD HOU at DEN *NYJ at MIA *STL at CHI
*BUF at CLE *JAC at IND *PHI at ARI TB at DAL
*Updated *CIN at WAS *KC at NO *PIT at OAK *GB at SEA (MON)

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