Sunday - Feb 17, 2019

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Deeper & Down

Jason Avant (PHI, WR) 9%

Last week you were given fair warning to pick up the sticky-handed and shifty slot receiver. Despite a matchup against the No. 1 ranked defense against the pass and a Top 5 defensive unit overall, it was surely the slot receiver that was going to have a lot more freedom with Washington keeping a tight rein on both DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin.

Avant tallied almost 100 receiving yards on the afternoon. With

Jackson concussed and highly questionable given the comissioner’s stance on head injuries, Avant is a good play going forward.

Atlanta

is currently lurking at No. 27 against the pass – a stark comparison against the very good Redskins defense (No. 1 against the pass) that ran

Philadelphia awfully close. The very worst thing about the

Atlanta defense, though? They lead the league in number of passing plays that give up 20-plus yards (45). They do better against the deep ball, however, only giving up six plays of 40-plus yards – that’s 49ers, Steelers and Vikings country – decent company, to be sure.

Over the course of a season, that’d suggest that the team is happier to let the opposition take the short pass and catch them out on the deeper ball. That’s slot receiver country.

The difference to Avant’s value is mainly

Jackson, If he plays, which at time of writing is probably no better than 50/50, then 

Jackson could easily break a short pass into a touchdown and eat into Avant’s looks. You don’t own

Jackson, though. If he doesn’t play? Avant could be in line for 80-100 yards and a touchdown or more.

The thing to remember is that not only is Avant the second-most targeted in the red zone for Philadelphia, but he also puts up decent numbers against defenses that are soft underneath – with or without Jackson – but Atlanta might not have the lion’s share of the time of possession, either.

Matt Ryan is out with turf toe. Coach Mike Smith has already called it that  Chris Redman will start this week against the Eagles. That’s a tall order. Redman isn’t a bad quarterback necessarily, it’s just that I believe that the

Philadelphia defense is a better defense than Redman is a quarterback. Asante Samuel and Sheldon Brown are arguably the best cornerback pairing in the league right now. The

Philadelphia defense is one of three I’d say is likely to put up game-winning numbers this week (see below for another).

A lot of offensive opportunities then, coupled with an increase in workload and a decent matchup against a soft defense. Mr. Avant, come on down!

TB D/ST (TB, DEF) 14%

Yes, yes, yes – I know we try to look at “players 10% owned or less” (TM pending), but for a D/ST 14 percent is definitely a low ownership percentage and given you have 32 of them to choose from? Even in a 16-team league there is a better than good chance you can acquire them.

Why

Tampa Bay, why now? Here’s the thing … Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris used to be the “old”

Tampa

Bay defensive coordinator. This was in the days when the Tampa Bay Tampa-2 was a good pick up and worthy of ownership. Morris was hired at the end of the 2001 season to be the defensive quality controller and was integral as to why the Buccaneers were the top ranked defensive unit in their super bowl run of 2003.

Jim Bates was relieved of his duties on Nov. 24th and Morris has once again taken control of the defensive reins. The results?

Tampa

Bay held Michael Turner, Jason Snelling and Jerious Norwood and three other rushers to a combined 75 yards total. Now Turner is back from injury, Snelling is far from stud status as is

Norwood, so hardly an acid test. Having said that, however,

Tampa

Bay also managed to compile six sacks against

Atlanta. That’s an

Atlanta offensive line that has allowed fewer sacks than

Minnesota,

Baltimore and

Dallas, so that’s certainly something more tangible to think over …

But even better than having Morris back in the driving seat – defensively as well as overall – comes in the form of their Week 13 opposition… the poor quarterback play of the Panthers. CAR quarterback Jake Delhomme has been managing to do his best once more to help a fellow quarterback out (Jay Cutler) using only the powers of poor decision making and interceptions. Just the four this past week for Delhomme and with a fractured finger on his throwing hand, it looks like Matt Moore will be getting the nod this week against the Bucs. Just for fun though, see if you can name the six quarterbacks with a WORSE completion passing percentage than Delhomme. Answers at the end of this section!

With Moore’s career stats at 69-of-123, 793 yards, 3 TDs, 6 INTs – I can’t see there being too much improvement overall no matter who ever they put under center …

Answers:

rookies Matt Stafford and  Mark Sanchez, the clueless Cleveland duo of Derek Anderson and  Brady Quinn, the recently replaced Kerry Collins and – naturally – JaMarcus Russell.

Josh Morgan (SF, WR) 4%

Earlier in the season I tried to dispel the misnomer that

San Francisco get off the bus running. The fact is they have a very balanced offense in terms of playcalling. This past week was no exception, save for one thing … it was apparent that coach Mike Singletary has more-or-less given Alex Smith the keys to the car. Smith spent a large part of the game operating out of a shotgun formation in a spread offense that plays more to his strengths. And it showed.

Alex Smith played as part of a Utah Utes team that was a conference juggernaut under the tutelage of Urban Meyer. Meyer – currently with the Florida Gators – uses three wide receivers in a spread offense with various options, built off the west coast offense philosophy. We got to see a bit more of this in some of the play calling by

San Francisco against

Jacksonville than we have done in all previous weeks. If this is going to the rule and not the exception, we can expect to see a relatively quiet Morgan start to make a significant impact.

He’d already shown flashes in his rookie year last year as well as preseason that he could be a successful NFL wide receiver. With Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree starting to spread the field of play and Frank Gore keeping opposing defenses honest, then a resurgent Smith could well make full use of his abilities this weekend against Seattle after performing well against Jacksonville last week.

And speaking of

Jacksonville, they play Houston and Matt Schaub with that potent offense that was able to put up 27 points against a dominant

Indianapolis defense. No doubt Schaub also will be looking to take out some of his two-interception angst that ultimately cost them a game they should have won against their undefeated division rivals.

Kenny Britt (TEN, WR) 14%

Since Vince Young has been under center? Since Justin Gage has damaged his back? Britt has compiled 170 yards on 11 receptions with one touchdown in two games. Gage will be back practicing this week, but no one plays immediately coming off a back injury that broke a couple of bones in his back.

Britt doesn’t do much after the catch – 3.2 yards after the catch (YAC), but check out Larry Fitzgerald & Sidney Rice’s YAC, he’s THAT kind of receiver – but at 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds, he doesn’t really have to. He’s a receiver that will get up there AND come back down with the pigskin. He outsizes the Indianapolis cornerbacks by three and five inches (Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers, respectively) and if you saw the Colts/Texans game you’d have seen the Indianapolis secondary having at least some problems competing with both Andre Johnson and Kevin Walter (five for 67, and seven for 73 & BOTH 6’3″ and the same weight – give-or-take 4 lbs).

Provided Chris Johnson can put up half the numbers he normally does and provided Vince Young can stay as cool, calm and collected as he did last week (and wekks previously, to be fair) then Britt is in line to put up 50 – 70yds and a score this week.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Marshawn Lynch (BUF, RB)

Given his suspension – he was probably taken between the second and fourth rounds in your draft, maybe lower depending on the other managers and their nerve. Either way? By Week 13 you were looking for a lot more of Lynch than we’ve gotten. We knew there were offensive line issues, but if that were the only problem then you have to ask yourself what Fred Jackson is eating – and where can we get some? “Beast Mode?” “Beastly Mode” is more like it … three carries for six yards for Lynch, with a longest run of six yards Fred Jackson managed 73 yards on 15 carries and two scores. Even Ryan Fitzpatrick got 50 yards rushing!

Vince Young (TEN, QB)

An 18-play drive, converting three FOURTH downs – including the touchdown pass with no seconds remaining. Any confidence issues he did have I think it’s safe to say – after the last few weeks – he has laid to rest. Both he and Alex Smith are probably the comeback stories of the season.

Dennis Dixon (PIT, QB)

Sunday night televised game? Division rivals? Playoff competitors? Tough defense? For his first full start I have to tip my hat to

Dixon. He’s got a booming arm, quick feet and decent downfield vision. He could’ve been even more eye-opening were it not for a penalty that pulled back a big play and a Mike Wallace flub. It’s a pity – given the number of teams in desperate need of a good young quarterback to build around  that

Dixon has “Big” Ben Roethlisberger in front of him.

New Orleans

(NO)

Talking of quarterback performances? You can’t not mention

New Orleans this week. Drew Brees led a master class in passing. His accuracy and reads were just other-worldly. He’s in a completely different class and arguably the finest quarterback performance in living memory. The most amazing thing though? It wasn’t just the Brees show, that defense is finally making the plays

New Orleans needs on a consistent basis and I think after this performance they are definitely the team everyone is looking to avoid in the run-up to the Super Bowl.

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