Thursday Night Football Fantasy rankings: Joe Flacco, Ravens looking to fly
Are we set for another snoozer on Thursday night? From the Fantasy perspective, Chris Towers sure thinks so.
Last Thursday's game was a treat for Fantasy players. Matt Ryan and Jameis Winston racked up huge numbers in the air in a 43-28 Falcons win. The conventional wisdom about Thursday Night Football was turned on its head for at least one week.
We'll probably see that right itself this week. Every team has to get a nationally televised game these days, and this week is the Browns' turn. I know, I'm bummed too. If you can, it's not a bad idea to avoid this game entirely for Fantasy, because it's hard to get excited about anyone here.
On the whole, the Ravens' defense has been pretty good, ranking ninth in points allowed per game at 19.1, but they have been especially dominant against the run. We just saw them hold Le'Veon Bell to 32 yards on 14 carries last week, and they are allowing the third-lowest yards per carry in the league at 3.4 .
ProFootballFocus.com has the Ravens' defense graded as the seventh-best in the league, but their run defense has been the class of the league. All of this is to say, that it's going to be very hard for anyone on the Browns to do much on the ground.
Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson have floated around the periphery of starting-caliber at the running back position all seaso, which means they both get started in literally thousands of leagues. That probably shouldn't be the case this week, even though Crowell rushed for 133 yards in his last meeting with the Ravens. Most of his success that game came on an 85-yard run, something he is unlikely to duplicate.
There really isn't one this week. These two teams have hardly been great for Fantasy players, with Terrelle Pryor looking like the only sure-fire thing most weeks. You'll want to keep him in your lineup this week against a Ravens secondary that has allowed the third-most Fantasy points to opposing wide receivers.
You can probably view him as a top-20 wide receiver this week, even with typical concerns about the passing game not looking right on a short week. He is talented enough -- and the matchup good enough -- to overcome that. He has scored at least 10 Fantasy points in five of nine games, though one notable exception came when he was held to just three catches in Week 2 against this same Ravens' defense.
Still, he has the target volume and ability to take advantage of this matchup.
Lineup Hail Marys
Joe Flacco hasn't been good this year, ranking 20th in Fantasy scoring, with more interceptions (seven) than touchdowns (six). This is actually fitting with a pattern for Flacco, who has been one of the least effective quarterbacks in the league since winning his Super Bowl in 2012 -- he ranks 26th out of 27 quarterbacks in passer rating with at least 1,000 pass attempts since the start of 2013.
However, he still has that big arm and can still take advantage of good matchups even if he doesn't have huge upside these days. Flacco managed to score 20 Fantasy points in his last matchup against the Browns, and should be a fine injury/bye-week fill-in option against the third-worst defense in Fantasy points allowed to quarterbacks.
Dennis Pitta hasn't scored a touchdown since December of 2013, which isn't as long a time as it seems given his injuries, but is still a long time; 14 games without a score, to be exact. In that time, he has five games with at least 10 targets and eight games with at least four receptions, so it's not for a lack of opportunities.
He has actually enjoyed a decent season in 2016, ranking fourth among tight ends in receptions and 14th in yards, but his inability to find the end zone has dropped him to 26th in Fantasy scoring to this point. The Browns' defense is, of course, one of the league's worst, and has allowed a league-high 12.4 Fantasy points to tight ends, so if Pitta was ever going to get into the end zone, this is the week.
West has really come back to Earth of late, rushing for just 31 yards over his past two games, and Kenneth Dixon was able to work his way into the lineup more last week as a result. Dixon played 20 snaps in Week 9, and though he didn't exactly cover himself in glory in rushing for 14 yards on nine carries, he is a conceivable alternative to West if he gets the opportunity.
Maybe West turns it around and hangs on to the job, but his limited track record of success has always made a switch seem possible, if not likely. If Dixon shows some life this week, he could be worth using down the stretch.
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