FANTASY FOOTBALL IN-SEASON FEATURES

Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 16
2012
ATL at DET (SAT) CLE at DEN NO at DAL *SF at SEA
BUF at MIA *IND at KC *NYG at BAL STL at TB
CHI at ARI MIN at HOU OAK at CAR *TEN at GB
*Updated CIN at PIT *NE at JAC SD at NYJ WAS at PHI

Prediction: CLE 13, DEN 27 (Line: DEN by 13)

Players to Watch: Demaryius Thomas, Ben Watson

The 11-3 Broncos just inherited the #2 seed thanks to the Patriots loss to the 49ers so they'll keep winning to get that bye week and one home field game. Denver is merely on a nine game winning streak while the 5-9 Browns are venturing out with a 1-5 road record. Not a good equation.

Cleveland Browns
Homefield: Cleveland Stadium
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PHI 16-17 10 BYE -----
2 @CIN 27-34 11 @DAL 20-23
3 BUF 14-24 12 PIT 20-14
4 @BAL 16-23 13 @OAK 20-17
5 @NYG 27-41 14 KC 30-7
6 CIN 34-24 15 WAS 21-38
7 @IND 13-17 16 @DEN -----
8 SD 7-6 17 @PIT -----
9 BAL 15-25 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
vs Rush Catch Pass
RB Ben Tate 30
WR Miles Austin 5-60
WR Josh Gordon 4-50
WR Andrew Hawkins 2-30

Pregame Notes: The season is winding down and the Browns have established that they are no longer in the bottom tier of teams - they are the next one. The one before you get to just an average team level. The Browns are now good enough to beat a bad team like the Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers. But unfortunately they do not play in the AFC West.

The Browns are getting by with marginal success passing and the running of Trent Richardson who has scored in each of the last four games and currently stands at 12 touchdowns on the season. What has waned every week for the last seven games is the rushing yardage which went from a high of 122 yards against the Chargers down to only 28 yards in the Redskins game. But he scored twice in that game as he did the previous week against the Chiefs.

Richardson has been blessed with what became one of the softer schedules in the NFL but that definitely ends this week in Denver. And he's been marginal as a runner now for the last month with sub-4.0 yard averages. Richardson is playing through chest and finger injuries though.

Brandon Weeden is playing well enough that the consensus has him returning next season as the starter again. He only thrown 14 scores on the year and he'll get a big test in Denver versus a defense that allows two scores to almost every opponent but has yet to give up a 300 yard game all year.

Josh Gordon remains the primary who usually only comes up with say 50 or 60 yards per week but has the upside to turn in a nice game in any week. He scored just once in the last seven weeks is may end up with Champ Bailey at least part of the time. Travis Benjamin scored on a 69-yard catch last week which should at least make the secondary account for him too. Greg Little hasn't scored since week seven and is only capable of marginal yardage.

The Browns are bad on the road and the Broncos want to cement their #2 seed. Expect much of the yardage and any passing scores to come late in the game when it doesn't matter.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points CLE 27 19 22 24 16 11
Preventing Fantasy Points DEN 12 3 9 32 4 12

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Brian Hoyer, CLE OAK 0000022010 ***
While Oakland has allowed three straight multiple TD games with at least 250 yards in each, Hoyer has just one of the former and two of the latter. Look for fantasy help elsewhere.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Ben Tate, CLE OAK 1102000000 ****
Mike Pettine vowed changes after last week's struggles, so don't necessarily expect Tate to get the bulk of the work this week. That said, it's a favorable enough matchup that both Tate and Isaiah Crowell could carve out fantasy value.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Isaiah Crowell, CLE OAK 500000000 **
Great week for a shakeup in the Cleveland backfield, as it looks like Crowell might get first crack at a Raiders' run D that's giving up an average of 131 RB rushing yards and one RB rushing score per game.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Andrew Hawkins, CLE OAK 007700000 ***
Hawkins is the closest thing to reliable in Cleveland's passing game, and with Oakland allowing at least one WR TD in each of the past three games he's the best bet to capitalize; that combined with his usual PPR volume make him the safest (only?) fantasy play of the bunch.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Miles Austin, CLE OAK 003500000 ***
Austin is consistently around 50 yards per week, which isn't enough to blip on the fantasy radar. And since he hasn't seen the end zone since Week 3 he's a difficult fantasy play even in a friendly matchup like this.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Travis Benjamin, CLE OAK 002200000 ***
Since scoring two TDs two weeks ago Travis has just one catch; clearly the Cleveland passing game is not all about the Benjamin. Upside, to be sure, but lots of risk if you plan on using this home run hitter in your fantasy lineup.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jordan Cameron, CLE OAK 003301000 **
The Raiders have allowed three TE TDs in the past four games, with the only dissenter being a Cardinals offense that doesn't give its tight ends the time of day. That bodes well for Cameron, who followed up his 102 and 1 against the Steelers with a disappointing one-catch outing against Jacksonville.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Billy Cundiff, CLE OAK 2233 ***
Cundiff hasn't had a double-digit outing yet this season, and over the past month the Raiders have been giving up too many touchdowns to surrender multiple field goals. That's a bad recipe for fantasy kicking success.

Denver Broncos
Homefield: Invesco Field
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 PIT 31-19 10 @CAR 36-14
2 @ATL 21-27 11 SD 30-23
3 HOU 25-31 12 @KC 17-9
4 OAK 37-6 13 TB 31-23
5 @NE 21-31 14 @OAK 26-13
6 @SD 35-24 15 @BAL 34-17
7 BYE ----- 16 CLE -----
8 NO 34-14 17 KC -----
9 @CIN 31-23 ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
DEN vs CLE Rush Catch Pass
QB Peyton Manning 300,2
WR Emmanuel Sanders 2-30
WR Demaryius Thomas 5-90,1
WR Wes Welker 7-80,1

Pregame Notes: The only fear now is that the Broncos get complacent and get a trap game happening. The last two games of the year - against the visiting Browns and Chiefs - may be the easiest matchups of them all. Wanting to hold the #2 seed will keep the Broncos playing to win but now you have to fear what happens when the game is obviously well in hand? Week 17 is a lock to have some absences and slow downs if only in the second half. But it could happen here as well - what is the incentive to push the score higher and higher when it becomes apparent that the Browns can't score much at all?

The projections will reflect a full effort given but there is at least a small element of risk even this week. Next week against the Chiefs all bets will be off after the first touchdown is scored since that alone may be enough to beat them.

Peyton Manning has already slowed down of sorts with only one score in each of the last two games. He's been good for two and usually three touchdowns in every home game this year though his yardage has been lower in most because the rushing effort has maybe even improved with Knowshon Moreno as the starter. He has the benefit of a nice schedule to be sure, but with him running for over 100 yards and scoring in the last two games, the need for Manning to produce points has declined.

Jacob Hester has become a goal line back and scored last week on his seven runs for 20 yards. Moreno has been running with very fresh legs and a sense of determination he never showed before. His final two games are both going to be profitable so long as they do not yank him at any point to save him for the playoffs.

Eric Decker comes off one of his best games of the year with eight catches for 133 yards in Baltimore but he's been significantly less productive in the five previous games. Demaryius Thomas thrown down his first stinker game of the year with only 13 yards on four receptions but he was overthrown on one touchdown and the Broncos won the game handily anyway.

The only concern here is that the Broncos don't realize they have already sewn up the #2 with two easy games left to play. Peyton Manning typically did not do that in Indianapolis so at least for this week, we should see enough playing time in earnest to feel comfortable starting the usual players this week.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points DEN 9 14 2 7 9 3
Preventing Fantasy Points CLE 20 24 27 2 6 13

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Peyton Manning, DEN SD 0000030030 *****
Manning has never not thrown for multiple touchdowns or 300-plus yards against the Chargers. Never. And in five of 11 lifetime meetings he's done both. Same could be said for this season, as he's averaging 300-plus and three TDs. Even with no NFL record dangling in front of him, Manning should put up his usual big numbers this week.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Ronnie Hillman, DEN SD 6003200000 ****
Hillman has been more than okay filling in for the injured Montee Ball. This week's edge comes in the passing game, as the Chargers have already given up five RB receiving scores and Hillman has nine targets in his two starts. No reason to bail on him here.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN SD 0071201000 ****
The Chargers have given up just one big game to wideouts... but the Broncos are a different animal, and Thomas is at the head of that pack. He's scored in three of four career meetings with the Bolts, including a 108 and 3 outing last November. No Brandon Flowers certainly doesn't help San Diego's hopes of slowing the Denver passing game.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN SD 005800000 ***
The trickle-down effect of San Diego losing a starting corner helps Sanders' prospects as well. With a whole bunch of Peyton Manning productivity to spread around, Sanders should see his share of the fantasy love.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Wes Welker, DEN SD 005600000 ****
Signs of life from Welker last week, and as long as Peyton Manning is throwing him the ball there's no reason to shy away from him as a fantasy contributor.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Julius Thomas, DEN SD 003401000 ***
Thomas failed to score for the first time last week, and the Bolts aren't an easy matchup for the position. That said, he's far too involved in the Denver offense to be benched simply for a bump in the road difficult matchup.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Brandon McManus, DEN SD 3333 ****
The risk with McManus is that he counts by ones instead of threes. Consider the Chargers enablers, as they've allowed only one multiple field goal game since Week 1.

WEEK 16
2012
ATL at DET (SAT) CLE at DEN NO at DAL *SF at SEA
BUF at MIA *IND at KC *NYG at BAL STL at TB
CHI at ARI MIN at HOU OAK at CAR *TEN at GB
*Updated CIN at PIT *NE at JAC SD at NYJ WAS at PHI

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