FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 7
2012
SEA at SF (THU) *DAL at CAR *NYJ at NE DET at CHI (MON)
*ARI at MIN *GB at STL *PIT at CIN Bye:
BAL at HOU *JAC at OAK TEN at BUF ATL, DEN, KC,
*UPDATED *CLE at IND *NO at TB *WAS at NYG MIA, PHI, SD

Prediction: BAL 17, HOU 30 (Line: HOU by 6)

Players to Watch: Arian Foster, maybe even Ben Tate

The Ravens squeaked past the Cowboys last week but his the road where they are only 1-1 and just lost two of their best defenders. The Texans come off a crushing defeat by the Packers that knocked them off their unbeaten perch. The Ravens beat the visiting Texas 29-14 in week six last year and later 20-13 when they hosted the Divisional Round of the playoffs. This time the game is in Houston where the Texans are ticked about losing so poorly to Green Bay and they will want revenge on the Ravens whose defense is suddenly shredded by injury.

Baltimore Ravens
Homefield: M&T Bank Stadium
Sport Turf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 CIN 44-13 10 OAK -----
2 @PHI 23-24 11 @PIT -----
3 NE 31-30 12 @SD -----
4 CLE 23-16 13 PIT -----
5 @KC 9-6 14 @WAS -----
6 DAL 31-29 15 DEN -----
7 @HOU ----- 16 NYG -----
8 BYE ----- 17 @CIN -----
9 @CLE ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
BAL @ HOU Rush Catch Pass
QB Joe Flacco 10 260,1
WR Steve Smith 5-50
WR Torrey Smith 4-70
TE Owen Daniels 5-70
TE Dennis Pitta 4-30,1
PK Justin Tucker 1 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: Losing CB Lardarius Webb and MLB Ray Lewis for the rest of the year is going to an even bigger hole in a defense that already was dealing with injuries and a reduced ability to stop opponents. Week eight offers a chance to regroup on the bye but a trip to Houston this week is not what this team needed.

For being a wide open passing attack, Joe Flacco has not been the source of scoring in most games. Over the last three weeks, Flacco has only passed for two touchdowns and was blanked in Kansas City. He has managed decent yardage in most home games but only posted 234 yards and one score on the Cowboys last week and never more than 232 yards in a road game. He is connecting better with the wide receivers but at the expense of the tight ends.

Ray Rice may not be quite as prolific as last year but he's still plenty productive and consistent with around 100 total yards as the worst he has offered thus far. Concerning is that Rice has not scored in a road game though his rushing yardage has been healthy even away from Baltimore. There is a minor concern that the loss of defenders for the Ravens could mean higher opponent scores and less ability to just rush the ball. But Rice can catch the ball as well as run it. He has been held to just one catch in the last two weeks though and that too may be a function of Flacco connecting better with wide receivers.

Dennis Pitta was the man for the first three weeks as he racked up 18 catches for 188 yards and two touchdowns. But he has just seven catches for 55 yards in the last three outings and can be safely dropped. Pitta was a factor until the passing game started to hit its stride. He's more of a blocker now.

Anquan Boldin has been responsible for most of the growth of the offense. He has turned in at least 82 yards and four catches in each of the last three weeks including nine catches for 131 yards versus the visiting Browns. Against the Cowboys and their improved cornerbacks. Boldin posted five receptions for 98 yards. Torrey Smith has been mostly quiet for the last couple of weeks though he scored once on the Cowboys. His four touchdowns lead the Ravens while no other wideout has more than one score.

The Ravens will try to run Rice but that should have minimal success since no one has rushed in a touchdown on the Texans and almost all runners end up with fewer than 70 rushing yards. Knowing Rice is central to their offense, the Texans will specifically plot to limit him. But the passing lanes should be better now that both Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning have shown that you can throw on the Texans. The question is if that can be enough with a lack of scoring from Flacco.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points BAL 15 7 16 17 7 7
Preventing Fantasy Points HOU 12 4 16 9 3 8

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Joe Flacco, BAL PIT 0000026011 ***
Flacco has now thrown 62 passes in back-to-back season openers, but last year he didn't come within a dozen attempts of that number the rest of the season, and he's had more than 37 attempts against the Steelers just once in 12 career meetings. As a result Flacco has but one 300-yard effort and two multiple touchdown outings against Pittsburgh and it's tough to see Baltimore changing its spots enough for him to be a fantasy factor on Thursday night.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Justin Forsett, BAL PIT 6013200000 **
Prior to last week's 84 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown it had been five years since Forsett was fantasy relevant. He'll be battling Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro for touches in Baltimore's backfield, but last week's performance puts him in the lead role for now. Against a Steel Curtain that just served up 175 yards and two TDs to the Terrance West/Isaiah Crowell/Ben Tate combo platter, that's enough to warrant consideration this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Bernard Pierce, BAL PIT 400000000 **
Pierce fumbled away his opportunity to lock up what now looks to be at least a season-long run as the Ravens' feature back; now he's sharing with Justin Forsett and maybe even rookie Lorenzo Taliaferro, and as the junior partner in the backfield jobshare he's a difficult fantasy start at best.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, BAL PIT 2001100000 ***
The rookie can't be banked on for a fantasy start just yet, but he has all the traits of the kind of back that emerges from a muddy backfield on a zone-blocking team to become... well, the next Alfred Morris or Arian Foster. If you get potential points he's startable; otherwise he's a bench stash with upside.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Torrey Smith, BAL PIT 003601000 ***
Torrey took a back seat to new teammate Steve Smith last week, but historically against the Steelers he's been at the fore: 40 targets in the past five meetings, including 16 (resulting in 9-154-1) last year as he moved out from under Anquan Boldin's shadow. Expect him to be more involved this week, enough so to at least warrant fantasy consideration.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Steve Smith, BAL PIT 007800000 ***
Smith saw twice as many targets as any other Raven last week and turned one of them into a highlight-reel touchdown catch-and-grab. Going forward you can't expect the looks to be so lopsided, but it's worth noting that the leading target for Cleveland last week was the similar-in-stature (and role) Andrew Hawkins.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Dennis Pitta, BAL PIT 005600000 ***
Pitta didn't play in either Steelers game last season and had just one catch in each end of the 2012 season series. But after racking up 33 targets, 20 catches, and 169 yards in a month of action last year--then opening with 10-83 on 15 targets in Week 1 it's clear he's an integral part of this offense. Pittsburgh surrendered 90 yards to a trio of Cleveland tight ends last week; feels like an eminently reachable touchdown for Pitta this week.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Justin Tucker, BAL PIT 1122 ***
Tucker has multiple treys in each of his four career outings against the Steelers; coming off two field goals and three PATs last week he should be in line for another busy evening here.

Houston Texans
Homefield: Reliant Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 MIA 30-10 10 @CHI -----
2 @JAC 27-7 11 JAC -----
3 @DEN 31-25 12 @DET -----
4 TEN 38-14 13 @TEN -----
5 @NYJ 23-17 14 @NE -----
6 GB 24-42 15 IND -----
7 BAL ----- 16 MIN -----
8 BYE ----- 17 @IND -----
9 BUF ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
HOU vs BAL Rush Catch Pass
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick 250,1
RB Arian Foster 120,2 1-10
RB Jonathan Grimes 10
WR Andre Johnson 5-80,1

Pregame Notes: The Texans fell from the ranks of the unbeaten when the Packers handled them in most every facet of the game. That probably said more than the Packers than the Texans though and the incoming Ravens do not have nearly as many weapons to use in their passing attack. With only a bye waiting on the other side, figure on this week being about dusting themselves off from last week and reasserting their dominance against a visiting team already weaker on the road and that just lost two more critical defenders.

Matt Schaub was unable to rally the Texans in the face of the onslaught by the Packers and passed for just 232 yards and no touchdowns. He threw a freakish four scores in Denver but otherwise has only four touchdowns over the other five games with most remaining right around that 200 yard "average" mark. It doesn't help Schaub that the Texans always bring in running plays when close to the endzone. He has marginal fantasy value and is hard to rely on even to fill in for a bye.

Arian Foster only gained 29 yards on 17 runs against the suddenly inspired Packers but he still scored two touchdowns. That makes at least one score in every game and eight touchdowns on the year. He is only caught one pass in each of the last four games so his touchdowns are the saving grace in a fantasy sense. Last week was a freakish low rushing total - Foster has been good for at least 80 rush yards in all the other games. He takes up such a big part of the rushing load that Ben Tate has lost all value besides backing up Foster should he ever miss a game.

Owen Daniels was held to just 46 yards on three catches last week but that broke a three week streak of touchdowns and decent yardage. Outside of Andre Johnson, Daniels remains a much used target and preferred receiver for Schaub.

Andre Johnson comes off his most productive game since the season opener when he caught eight passes for 75 yards on the Packers though much of that came later in the game when the defense was allowing the underneath throws. Thanks to the great rushing effort and usually dominant defense, the need to throw to any receiver has not been great in most games and that translates even to Johnson who has not scored since week three and was only good for one catch for 15 yards in the week five match-up against the Jets.

This is a good week to face the Ravens. They just lost their best cornerback and MLB Ray Lewis was not only their leading tackler but the heart and soul of the defense. The Texans should be plenty focused after their loss last week and will look to exploit the injury-ravaged defense.

The Ravens were already weaker against the run before losing Lewis and have allowed six rushing touchdowns already this year. They gave up 216 rush yards to the Cowboys and 200 rush yards to the Chiefs the week before. This will be a good week to own Arian Foster... not that they are not all that way...

I like a defensive score in this game.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points HOU 27 2 30 7 8 8
Preventing Fantasy Points BAL 8 20 21 13 23 4

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, HOU @OAK 10000020011 ***
Nothing in either Fitzpatrick's track record suggests he can be banked on for anything more than a pedestrian effort here. Copy and paste, at least until Ryan Mallett takes over.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Arian Foster, HOU @OAK 11013200000 ****
The Jets split their 174 RB rushing yards amongst three backs, though Chris Ivory did reach triple digits on his own. Foster will house all of those for Houston, as well as any receiving yards--and probably any touchdowns the Texans score as well.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Andre Johnson, HOU @OAK 006800000 ***
Johnson is still the big dog in this hunt, though not quite as big as last year when he saw 17 of the Texans' 28 WR targets against Oakland. A more even distribution shouldn't put too much of a damper on his fantasy prospects.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR DeAndre Hopkins, HOU @OAK 005500000 ***
Hopkins is still a wingman to Andre Johnson, but he's definitely closing the gap--enough so that he's a viable fantasy option this week.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Randy Bullock, HOU @OAK 1122 ***
Bullock should see an uptick in opportunity this week--maybe not enough to be a great fantasy start, but at least enough to warrant plug-in consideration if you're streaming kickers.

WEEK 7
2012
SEA at SF (THU) *DAL at CAR *NYJ at NE DET at CHI (MON)
*ARI at MIN *GB at STL *PIT at CIN Bye:
BAL at HOU *JAC at OAK TEN at BUF ATL, DEN, KC,
*UPDATED *CLE at IND *NO at TB *WAS at NYG MIA, PHI, SD

a d v e r t i s e m e n t