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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
WR Josh Gordon 4-50

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 Drew Stanton, CLE @CHI 0000024020 ***
Blaine Gabbert heads back to the pine with Stanton healthy enough to reclaim the starting gig after the former struggled mightily in Week 15. The Giants have permitted 265.6 yards and a TD every 11.2 receptions -- both ranking eighth in their respective categories. Since Week 10, this is the fifth-best matchup if you remove three quarterback rushing TDs from the equation.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Tyrod Taylor, CLE @CHI 30100017001 ***
Taylor threw just 18 times in the meeting in Week 13 and completed 50 percent of them for a pathetic 65 yards. New England's defensive strength is on the back end, and he has no fantasy utility in conventional formats this week. The Pats rank sixth toughest against QBs in the past five weeks.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Carlos Hyde, CLE @CHI 5006400000 ***
One of the last 121 touches against Jacksonville by a running back has scored, and the matchup rates as the second-worst in both scoring formats. This is strongly in the negative camp for all metrics but receptions per game (15th).
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Duke Johnson Jr., CLE @CHI 1004300000 ***
Johnson (shoulder) has a fairly strong matchup through the air. Chicago has granted running backs five receptions (18th) for 33.4 yards (22nd) and a score every 25 snatches. Unless this one deviates from the norm, Johnson will be an underwhelming play.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Jarvis Landry, CLE @CHI 006601000 ***
KC offers the sixth-hardest matchup in PPR and fourth-worst in standard scoring. The Chiefs have allowed only one of the last 59 receptions by the position to score, traversing five games of action.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Josh Gordon, CLE @CHI 005600000 ***
Receivers have managed 13 receptions (9th) and 168.4 yards (6th) a game vs. the Bears since Week 10, with one score per contest coming on those 13 balls (15th). Gordon lines up to be a moderate risk-reward option based on the quarterback play and opponent.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Corey Coleman, CLE @CHI 003500000 ***
Receivers have scored once per game since Week 10 against the Bears, and this defense is giving up the sixth-most yards on a weekly basis. However, the quarterback play has been so bad that gamers would be taking a huge risk to start him.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE David Njoku, CLE @CHI 002300000 ***
It looked like the rookie was getting on track for a two-game spell a few weeks back, but he then returned to being a non-factor in fantasy. Look elsewhere for a flier play.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Zane Gonzalez, CLE @CHI 2211 ***
Regardless of the matchup, no owner in a championship game should consider a Browns kicker, no matter his name.

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
vs Rush Catch Pass
WR Emmanuel Sanders 2-30
WR Demaryius Thomas 5-90,1

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 Case Keenum, DEN @WAS 20000026020 ***
The journeyman has two TD throws in each of his last four games and fewer than 20 fantasy points in one of his last seven. The Week 6 matchup with the Pack wasn't one of his finest outings (17.5 points), and this time around it is in Green Bay. The positive: He faces the No. 2 matchup of the week against a defense giving up a TD every 8.3 completions since Week 10 for the worst rate in football.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Devontae Booker, DEN @WAS 3001100000 ***
While Booker has a fine matchup, Anderson quickly could steal the show once again. Washington is the fifth-best matchup in non-PPR and No. 12 in the reception-rewarding format.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN @WAS 003300000 **
Sanders has struggled mightily of late while trying to play through an ankle injury, and now he is likely to have another quarterback change to Paxton Lynch. The matchup is daunting. Washington has conceded only 9.8 receptions (27th) for 146.8 yards (16th) and a score every 24.5 snags (28th) in the past five weeks.

Update: Sanders is questionable and a gametime call. He sat the first two days of practice but gave it a limited go in Friday's session. It looks like Brock Osweiler will start instead of Lynch.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN @WAS 003200000 ***
The matchup is awful, and it looks like Paxton Lynch will start. The only Broncos wideout with a hint of upside is Thomas, though he must overcome fantasy's fifth-worst match up of the week.

Update: It looks like Brock Osweiler will start instead of Lynch.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Brandon McManus, DEN @WAS 3311 ***
Washington offers the second-best matchup of the week, primarily due to yielding the second-most field goal attempts (14-for-14) per game over the last five weeks.

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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