Week Ten Thursday Game Center
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Oakland (4-4) at San Diego (4-4)
When and Where: Thursday, November 10, 2011, 8:20 p.m. ET, San Diego, CA
Game-time Weather Report: Conditions: Mostly cloudy; Temperature: 65 degrees; Winds: 5 mph; Chance of precipitation: 0%
These players are those you normally start each week, but we cover their matchups anyway.
Antonio Gates (TE, SD) – Week Nine was another fine performance Gates, who caught 8 of 10 targets for 96 yards and a TD in the loss to the Packers. His yardage has increased in each game since he returned from his foot injury in Week Seven, and over those three games he’s put up 17/223/2 on 24 targets. QB Philip Rivers has gone through a lot of struggles, but he’s still capable of putting up numbers, and Gates is always capable of coming through too, even if a team source told Yahoo! that Gates “looks old and fat.” We know he’ll probably never be at 100% again, but this guy is still among the best in the league even when he’s not fully healthy. The Raiders have not been good against the TE, giving up a 5th-most 10.2 FPG to the position in the last four games, and while they have a decent pass rush, they have holes elsewhere on defense. Stanford Routt is the only healthy CB they can rely on right now, and the LBs are also major liabilities in coverage if Gates can get matched up on a guy like Rolando McClain, who may not even play because of an ankle injury. Plus, Raider FS Michael Huff (ankle) also may be out of the lineup, and that is big for Gates. So, not only is it an appealing matchup, but when healthy enough to play, Gates is also a weekly starter anyway. Maybe he’s not quite as good as he once was, but he’s still good enough to put up numbers and this matchup, overall, is very good. Start him.
These are players who are looking particularly good based on a few factors, namely their matchups, but due also to their expected roles for the week.
Michael Bush (RB, Oak) – Starting RB Darren McFadden still isn’t ready to return from his sprained foot, which means Bush will get his second start in a row Thursday night. Bush turned in a solid and effective fantasy performance last week, carrying 19 times for 96 yards and adding 2 catches for 33 yards and a TD. Bush has put up 100+ total yards in each of the last two games, averaging more than 5 YPC in both. He’s a big runner at 245 pounds, and he runs with physical presence. He may not be explosive or elusive as a runner, but he has quick feet and can make things happen between the tackles. He’s not a plodder, that’s for sure, and he can also catch the ball well. The Chargers are giving up a solid 17.2 FPG to RBs in their last four games, but they’re dealing with some injuries at LB, where Shaun Phillips (foot) is out and Takeo Spikes (arm) and Antwan Barnes (calf) are banged up. The Raiders will, as always, attempt to run a lot, even without McFadden, and while speedy backup Taiwan Jones will possibly get some touches, this will be Bush’s show again. The Raiders have some ability to stretch the field with QB Carson Palmer and the WRs, especially against a shaky Charger secondary, and the threat of the deep ball always helps the Raider running game, and Bush will get plenty of chances (you can probably expect around 20 touches again). As long as McFadden is out, Bush is definitely worth having in your starting lineup. If the Raiders can grab a late lead, he’s also their closer, and two weeks ago we saw Jackie Battle wear the Chargers down and put up good numbers down the stretch.
Carson Palmer (QB, Oak) – After capitalizing on the Raiders’ well-timed Week Eight bye to get extra work in with his new receiving corps, Palmer made a promising first start for the Raiders, despite the loss to the Broncos. Yes, he threw 3 INTs, but for the most part, he looked like the savvy pro that he’s generally been over his career, and his arm looked pretty good. Palmer completed 19/35 for 332 yards and 3 TDs, and unlike last year in Cincinnati, it looked like he was releasing the ball well. He appeared to have a pretty good rapport with his WRs, most notably speedsters Jacoby Ford and Denarius Moore, and he read coverage well. The Raiders are a run-first offense, but Palmer has speed at WR, which gives him some upside. He faces a matchup that’s certainly beatable at San Diego on Thursday, as the Chargers are giving up a 4th-most 23.6 FPG to QBs in their last four games. They lack a good pass rush and are missing their only real threat in OLB Shaun Phillips (foot), who is expected to miss another game. Plus, the entire secondary is vulnerable downfield because they lack speed, and the Chargers can’t make up their minds at the #2 CB spot, where Antoine Cason is set to retake the starting job from rookie Marcus Gilchrist. Neither Cason nor Quentin Jammer runs well, and safeties Eric Weddle and Steve Gregory can also be beaten deep. The Raiders may not have elite talent at WR, but Ford and Moore both have the speed to make big plays. With RB Darren McFadden (foot) out again, there may be more chances for Palmer to throw, and while he’s still a bit of a risk this early with the Raiders, he’s not a bad option this week after looking pretty good in his first start. And when all else fails, we like the Charger offense here, so this could be something of a shootout. If Palmer’s throwing all four quarters, he will produce.
Jacoby Ford (WR, Oak) – This receiving corps is a total mess, but the talented Ford emerged as a top target for new QB Carson Palmer in last week’s loss to the Broncos. Palmer played very well, for the most part, and Ford benefited by catching 5 passes for 105 yards and a TD on 5 targets. It was the first time he’s had any value all season, and while he has downside, it might be time to hop back on his bandwagon. He was heavily featured in the Raider offense last week, and he appeared to already have a pretty good rapport with Palmer. He starts, and he’s a threat to make a big play at any time, especially this week against the Chargers. The Chargers are giving up a 10th-most 22.7 FPG to WRs in their last four games, and CBs Quentin Jammer and Antonio Cason – who was benched the last two games – are both capable of giving up big plays. The Raiders operate a run-first offense, and they may do that even with Darren McFadden out, but that doesn’t mean they won’t take plenty of shots to the explosive Ford and Denarius Moore. Ford certainly isn’t a sure-thing as a fantasy option, but if you’re in need of somebody with upside, he’s not a bad player to take a shot with – especially given that Palmer looked pretty good. Ford, by the way, looked fantastic last week.
These players are either looking a little better than usual based on their matchups/ situations, or are usually solid starters to begin with.
Philip Rivers (QB, SD) – Clearly, something still isn’t right with Rivers, as he’s making some baffling decisions and threw 2 INTs that were returned for TDs and another pick that was nearly taken back for a score by the Packers. However, it wasn’t all bad. He finally got things going with WR Vincent Jackson, and he still managed big fantasy numbers by completing 26/46 for 385 yards and 4 TDs. Jackson reemerged with 7/141/3, but the success for Rivers is overshadowed by the fact that he leads the league with 14 INTs after throwing 13 all of last season. This was also his first 3-INT game since he was a freshman at North Carolina State, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. There has been plenty of speculation about what’s wrong with Rivers, and at times, it’s looked like he’s playing hurt, but Rivers continues to say that isn’t the case. We’re left in the same situation we’ve been in: Yes, there are problems, but you probably have to keep using him. It’s not like that’s a bad thing, as he’s still ranked 7th among QBs with an average of 22.5 FPG in his last four games. And he did play better last week, so he might be fighting through his struggles, which may simply be that he’s trying to do too much. While we’re somewhat cautious with him, he looks good again this week against the Raider defense. They’re giving up 20.8 FPG to QBs (14th), and they are extremely beatable on the back end as they continue to deal with injuries at CB. Both Chris Johnson (groin) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (hamstring) are likely out, and Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) isn’t a lock to play, leaving them very vulnerable with Lito Sheppard potentially starting with Stanford Routt. The Raiders do have a fairly good pass rush with players like Kamerion Wimbley and Jarvis Moss, but Rivers has enough options in the passing game to be okay. The Chargers are likely going to play without WR Malcom Floyd (doubtful) again, but Rivers still has plenty of targets in Jackson, Antonio Gates, the RBs, and rookie WR Vincent Brown, who stepped up last week. Obviously, Rivers hasn’t looked great, but you’re probably best off sucking it up and using him because he’s still a fine fantasy option. If the Raiders can put up points, which we think they can, this could morph into a shootout of sorts.
Vincent Jackson (WR, SD) – Jackson had been one of the most frustrating fantasy players in the league, due in part to the struggles of QB Philip Rivers, but he finally rewarded those who stayed patient with a huge performance last week against the Packers. Rivers and Jackson finally got on the same page, and the result was 7 catches for 141 yards and 3 TDs on 12 targets. Jackson opened with a 23-yard TD less than 5 minutes into the game, and after a quiet period, he caught 2 TD passes in less than a 2-minute span in the fourth quarter. The huge day ended a string of three straight duds since he had 3/108/1 in Week Four, and while all problems aren’t solved in San Diego, he proved that he can make plays all over the field again. We’re not going to expect similar numbers every week, but he certainly faces an interesting matchup in Week Ten against the Raiders and CB Stanford Routt. While the Raiders are very thin at CB because of injuries, Routt has played very well, and the team as a whole is giving up just 18.3 FPG to WRs in the last four games. With Malcom Floyd not expected to play for the Chargers, the Raiders will likely use Routt on Jackson almost exclusively, as they typically play aggressive man coverage. There’s no question that Rivers still has some issues, but he can still make plays with receivers, and Jackson is a dangerous threat anywhere on the field because of his size and ball skills. The matchup isn’t the easiest against Routt, and his recent history against them isn’t great, but Jackson’s still a very good bet for production and should be in your lineup. Those who sat him last week saw what can happen when you sit this guy down.
Ryan Mathews (RB, SD) – Injuries finally caught up with Mathews and knocked him out of a full game for the first time this season, as he was inactive against the Packers because of a groin injury. As we’ve said before, the guy is like a human injury report, as he’s been listed with injuries to his groin, thumb, calf, wrist, and foot, all in the last month or so. When on the field, he has emerged as the Chargers’ lead runner, and he’s been very good this year, with an average or 14.7 FPG and heavy involvement in the passing game. HC Norv Turner talked last week about how physical Matthews is as a runner, and that style is taking a toll on his body. Mathews is expected to return for Thursday’s game against the Raiders, and it’s not a bad matchup for him. The Raiders rank in the middle of the pack against RBs, giving up 18.8 FPG to the position in the last four games, but a guy with Mathews’ explosiveness could do some damage on the edge. The Raiders have major issues at LB and simply aren’t very good there against the run with Rolando McClain (who’s questionable to play), Aaron Curry, and pass rusher Kamerion Wimbley, and when on the field, Mathews has really proven to be a dynamic and explosive option as a runner, as well as a reliable option in the passing game. There are some concerns up the middle against DTs Tommy Kelly and Richard Seymour, especially with Charger LG Kris Dielman (head) out, and while Kelly and Seymour were exploited last week, that came against the Broncos’ read option game. Mathews will certainly split touches with Tolbert – perhaps even more as he comes off the injury – but there are still more than enough touches to go around, especially given some of the struggles QB Philip Rivers has had in the passing game. The Raiders aren’t bad up the middle along the defensive line, and there’s no doubt that the durability question remains huge for Mathews, but if he goes, you have to roll with him. Keep in mind Rivers is looking to check the ball down to his RBs when the pass rush is in his face, and the last time the Raiders faced a team that can do damage to backs catching passes out of the backfield (Week 5) Arian Foster and the Texans got them for 5/116, and Mathews is deadly out of the backfield.
Mike Tolbert (RB, SD) – The emergence of Ryan Mathews moved Tolbert into more of a complementary role in the Charger backfield, but he’s still been extremely active all season and has actually caught 32 passes. He’s dealt with some injury issues of his own, but Mathews is very fragile, and that forced Tolbert back into the starting role last week against the Packers. Tolbert responded with an impressive performance, rushing 19 times for 83 yards and a TD and catching 4 passes on 9 targets for 59 yards. He’s a pain to tackle and is effective in short-yardage situations, and he’s obviously a big asset in the passing game. With Mathews expected to return, Tolbert moves back into the #2 role, but that doesn’t mean he won’t get plenty of touches. He’ll get the ball, as always, and he’ll be faced with a Raider defense that’s giving up 18.8 FPG to RBs. While the Raiders are solid up the middle with Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly at DT, they have some issues at LB, and Tolbert can exploit that if he can get through the wall up front. His role might not be ideal, but Mathews is a question mark every week because of his injury history, and Tolbert’s role could still be very significant if the team decides to be cautious with Mathews. It is important to note that the Raider defense was very strong against straight runs by the Bronco RBs last week, and instead, most of the production came in the read option game, which is something the Chargers obviously can’t run. Plus, he was held to a miserable 27 yards on 19 carries by the Raiders last year in two games. Still, Tolbert is always a threat to score and pile up catches, so it’s another good week to plug Tolbert in your lineup. As mentioned above, Rivers is looking to check the ball down to his RBs, and the last time the Raiders faced a team that can do damage to backs catching passes out of the backfield (Week 5) Arian Foster and the Texans got them for 5/116, and Tolbert is usually involved catching passes out of the backfield. And, of course, if there are any carries for a Charger inside the 5, it’s all Tolbert, so he could easily score.
These players aren’t standing out as great starts this week based on matchups, situations, injuries, etc. But they still deserve consideration and are viable options, especially if you normally strongly consider them.
None of note.
These players have a significant level of risk associated with them based on roles, situations, matchups, etc. Generally speaking, in leagues of 12 teams or fewer, they should be avoided if possible.
Darrius Heyward-Bey (WR, Oak) – Well, now what do we make of this receiving corps? Amazingly, Heyward-Bey appeared to be emerging as the most reliable option in the passing game, and he had racked up 22/385/1 and a solid 11.1 FPG in four games entering Week Nine. So, what happened next? In Carson Palmer’s first start for the Raiders after the bye week, Heyward-Bey played just 12 snaps and didn’t start. Obviously, something is going on there, although HC Hue Jackson said it had to do with formations. The result was increased time for Moore (4/61 on 12 targets) and Chaz Schilens (2/20 on 2 targets), and new acquisition T.J. Houshmandzadeh (1/28 on 4 targets) also got involved. Could Heyward-Bey be out of luck? The Raiders could roll with Moore and Jacoby Ford with Houshmandzadeh in the slot as the top options, especially this week against a Charger secondary that is beatable and can’t settle on a #2 CB between Antoine Cason and Marcus Gilchrist. DHB has played well, but Ford and Moore have been better downfield targets. At this point, it’s tough to trust anybody in this receiving corps until we see how things play out again, and if you’re going to play anybody, it’s Ford. If you’re going to avoid anyone, it has to be DHB at least until we see another game or two.
Taiwan Jones (RB, Oak) – We expected Jones to start seeing more time with starter Darren McFadden out, as he’s extremely talented and explosive and is a good fit as a change-of-pace back behind Michael Bush. He’s very raw, but it’s still surprising he wasn’t used more in Week Nine, although the game was close and they were all about throwing the ball. Jones finished with just 2 carries for 1 yard and didn’t even have a catch, so obviously he had no value. So, it’s probably not a good idea to even take a shot with Jones even as a deep reach, since we have to see him do something. But McFadden isn’t expected to play again this week, and the Chargers, who are giving up 17.2 FPG to RBs in their last four games, have several injuries at LB. The Raiders will likely feed the ball to Bush and take some shots downfield, and Jones’ involvement is simply up in the air for now. He has upside, but we need to see him actually have fantasy value first.
Kevin Boss and Brandon Myers (TE, Oak) – Boss is a pretty solid player, but clearly things aren’t going well for him right now. For whatever reason – HC Hue Jackson said they used different packages – Boss barely played in Week Nine against the Broncos, and he didn’t even see a target. Instead, backup Myers saw the field more and caught an 11-yard pass on his only target. Obviously, there’s just nothing to even consider here, as Boss has caught only 8 passes for 160 yards and a TD all season. He could get on the field and make a play or two with new QB Carson Palmer, but that’s not something you can trust. The Chargers are giving up a 5th-fewest 5.6 FPG to TEs in their last four games, and neither of these guys is capable of exploiting their weaknesses in coverage downfield, so forget it.
Similar to our matchup players, these players are viable options based on their matchups, but we also consider for these options things like increased roles, potential flow of the game, and more. These players are generally long-shot types who could have the potential to come through but present more downside than others listed here (not including risky plays).
Denarius Moore (WR, Oak) – As mentioned in the DHB writeup, Heyward-Bey was a non-factor in Week Nine with only 12 snaps played. Meanwhile, Moore started and saw 11 targets. Not only that, but QB Carson Palmer seemed very comfortable throwing to Moore. It’s only one game, but if you’re looking for some upside this week, Moore’s definitely a viable reach play. The kid looks special, and the matchup is beatable. The Chargers are giving up a 4th-most 23.6 FPG to QBs in their last four games. They lack a good pass rush with OLB Shaun Phillips (foot), who is expected to miss another game, and their secondary is vulnerable downfield because they lack speed. The Chargers have had serious issues #2 CB spot, where Antoine Cason is set to retake the starting job from rookie Marcus Gilchrist and everyone on the back end for the Chargers appears vulnerable to speed and big plays. It’s risky to roll with him, but the payoff could very well be huge, so we’re okay backing him as a reach play.
Vincent Brown(WR, SD) – Brown was one of our favorite WR sleepers from this draft, and while it’s been slow going for him after dealing with injuries throughout camp, he’s finally getting a chance. With Malcom Floyd (hip) out, Brown made the start against the Packers and caught a solid 4 passes for 79 yards on 6 targets. They threw a lot playing from behind, but he’s clearly got some potential here if he’s on the field. He’s not a dynamic or explosive receiver, but he’s a fairly polished player with good hands, so he has a chance with Floyd expected to be out again. That’s especially true against a Raider defense that has major issues at CB. While Stanford Routt is a good player, and the Raiders are allowing only 18.3 FPG to WRs in their last four games, they are searching for a #2 CB with Chris Johnson (groin) and DeMarcus Van Dyke (hamstring) likely out and Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) not a lock to play. If it’s not one of those guys, Lito Sheppard could end up starting. This isn’t to say you should be rushing to get Brown in your lineup, as he’s not at the top of the pecking order in a passing game that features Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, and a pair of quality receivers at RB, but we like him a lot, and it’s possible he could do something of note.
- Charger RB Ryan Mathews (groin-probable) participated in Wednesday’s walk-through and is on target to start. We’d expect the plans is to get him 18-20 touches with Mike Tolbert getting 13-15, but the hot hand approach could be in effect. Tolbert will almost certainly still be the choice near the goal, since Mathews is fumbling.
- Charger starting WR Malcom Floyd (hip-doubtful) didn’t participate in Wednesday’s walk-through and is not expected to play. Rookie WR Vincent Brown is expected to start for him again. Brown started over Patrick Crayton last week.
- Raider starting RB Darren McFadden (sprained foot) is out. Backup RB Michael Bush will start again for him. #3 RB Taiwan Jones had only 1 carry and 0 pass targets last week.
- Raider WRs Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford started last week. Darrius Heyward-Bey saw only 12 snaps. The team explained that was more about their plays called and formations, but it’s hard not to view last week as a demotion for DHB.
Chargers 27 Raiders 23
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