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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 @ATL 0000026010 ****
The Falcons have allowed multiple touchdown passes in four straight, which might just be a favorable enough matchup to push Hoyer--who has just one multi-TD outing in his last six games--into fringe fantasy contributor territory.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Isaiah Crowell, CLE @ATL 8012100000 ***
Don't fall for the past two weeks of Atlanta's stats against a pair of run-challenged division foes; they've given up RB TDs in all six non-division games as well as at least 123 yards from scrimmage to the RB position. Crowell was Cleveland's lead dog last week, and with Ben Tate out of the picture he's good for at least half the touches in a backfield that should have its way with the Falcons run D.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Terrance West, CLE @ATL 401000000 ***
West took a back seat to Isaiah Crowell last week after getting 26 carries in the key divisional win over Cincy the previous week. Who knows which back will be Cleveland's primary, but against an Atlanta D that's allowing an average of 186 combo yards and 1.6 TDs to opposing non-division backfields even a share means fantasy success.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Josh Gordon, CLE @ATL 005801000 *
How quickly can the Browns re-incorporate Gordon into the mix? Shouldn't take long against a secondary that's allowed 100-yard games to the past three feature receivers it has faced.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Andrew Hawkins, CLE @ATL 005600000 ***
Hawkins should retain his role even with the return of Josh Gordon, though there may not be as big of a need for his possession receiver skills.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Taylor Gabriel, CLE @ATL 003400000 ***
Just as Gabriel was starting to carve out a little niche for himself in the Cleveland passing attack, Josh Gordon returns to blow everything up. With Gordon hogging the looks there's unlikely to be as much fantasy value to Gabriel's game.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Miles Austin, CLE @ATL 002200000 ***
Austin was supposed to take the place of Josh Gordon, and now Gordon is back. So... it's been a nice run.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Jordan Cameron, CLE @ATL 00000000 *
Battling injuries and ineffectiveness, Cameron hasn't been fantasy-relevant since Week 6. The return of Josh Gordon this week overshadows anything Cameron might bring to the table; he's back in "prove it" mode until we see anything that resembles the kind of numbers he put up last year.
Update: Cameron has been ruled out of this week's game... not that he's been much help lately anyway.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Billy Cundiff, CLE @ATL 2233 ***
After a couple big games at home, Cundiff has turtled. It's not a favorable enough matchup to expect a turnaround that will benefit your fantasy squad.

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 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 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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