Thursday, December 6, 2012

NFL WEEK 14 - THURSDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

Peyton Manning is 4-2 all time against the Raiders, a team he hasn’t played all that well against statistically.  Yet Manning is 2-0 in Oakland and in his last meeting at the Coliseum he managed a line of 16-for-30 for 179 yards and three touchdowns with two picks.  So why would this time be any different?  Well, for one, Knowshon Moreno is behind Manning this time and not Willis McGahee.  For his career, Moreno has eked out just 3.2 yards per carry against the Raiders, and has a 3.5 per tote average this season.  Moreno is a quick if not delicate back that can get through a hole quickly assuming there is one.  He won’t move the pile and won’t create lanes for himself.   Rookie Ronnie Hillman, averaging four yards per carry, was anticipated by many fantasy owners to be McGahee’s heir, only to find that Moreno has two straight games of 20 carries though he has yet to find the end zone.  He’s a risky start here, as he’s not the red zone plow that McGahee can be, and both times Denver was inside the Tampa Bay ten last week, the team deferred to the pass.  Denver hasn’t scored a rushing touchdown since Week 10, so even against a Raiders defense giving up the second most fantasy points to opposing runners, I’m not using him if I can help it.  His ceiling is 80 yards maximum, but I’d use Steven Jackson over him in a second versus the Bills, or take the risk of Bryce Brown against the Bucs best rush defense over Moreno.

The Raiders will welcome back Darren McFadden, who has terrorized the Broncos to the tune of nearly six yards per carry and five touchdowns in eight games.  Along with Marcel Reece, who put up five receptions and 54 yards against them back in Week 4, expect both backs to see a decent amount of action in an effort to keep Manning and his offense off the field.  Ball control and efficiency hasn’t exactly been the Raiders’ thing, as they’re under the league average in time of possession and average a 33.9 percent third down conversion rate, third worst in the AFC.  For the Raiders to have any chance, they’re going to have to use their running game, and the occasional vertical passing game to keep Denver off balance while taking the clock and scoreboard with them.


The Raiders have no reason to be careless with McFadden
It’s not likely to happen.  Last week, Cleveland QB Brandon Weeden threw for his career high against this Raiders backfield, with a receivers group only likely to scare a college program.  Manning faces an Oakland front seven that has just 14 sacks on the season.  Thus he will target Demaryius Thomas deep and often, though Thomas’ 103 yards receiving last game won’t be forgotten.  Should he face double teams, that’ll leave Eric Decker, who back in September hauled in seven passes for 79 yards and a touchdown.  With Brandon Stokley likely out again this week, Decker and Thomas will have added emphasis, making them stellar plays for your playoff squad.  Jacob Tamme will also provide his share of grabs (last week he had nine) but it’s a tossup whether Joel Dreessen ends up with another vulture TD from him. 

With leading tackler Wesley Woodyard out for Denver, expect McFadden and Reece to split 20-25 carries.  If the Raiders can get to 30-plus carries, they’ll win the ball game.  Reece should get the yeoman’s load, with 12-15 rushes and should provide 60 yards on the ground.  Where he’s most dangerous is out of the backfield in red zone, where he scored his only TD this year.  McFadden is more likely to see 7-8 tries and 45 yards.  Palmer will have to throw, but any receiver other than TE Brandon Myers is a serious risk.  The Broncos are second worst against opposing tight ends and Myers is now the leading receiver on the Raider with 69 grabs in 88 targets. Denarius Moore should be good for a deep ball or two, but he has just four receptions in the past three weeks.  Darius Heyward-Bey should be in for some good possession yardage, but it wouldn’t shock the conscious with Denver’s tough corners to see Rod Streater come out of the pack with a few big catches against a Denver nickel package.  None are worth slotting into your lineup.

The Raiders are a team bickering amongst themselves and most players are playing for a job next year and not necessarily with Oakland.  Manning may start slow, and Oakland will keep in close in prime-time, but in the end, the Broncos will top out again.  However, I’d take Oakland and the ten points at home.


BRONCOS 31, OAKLAND 24