Jan 21, 2012
WIDE RECEIVERS - SIT ‘EM
Deion Branch (New England Patriots) vs. Baltimore
After missing three of the last four regular season games with a groin injury Patriots receiver Deion Branch did well in the team’s blowout win over the Denver Broncos last week. Though he only caught three passes those receptions went for 85 yards and a touchdown. Branch has had a couple of good games this season but for the most part he’s one of the last options on the offense behind wide receiver Wes Welker and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. This week’s game should be tighter than last week’s contest against the Broncos, which should leave quarterback Tom Brady passing only to the targets he trusts the most. Branch is not high on that totem pole.
Lee Evans (Baltimore Ravens) @ New England
With just four catches during the entire regular season you would think that nobody in their right mind would consider Baltimore wide receiver Lee Evans as a candidate for their roster this week. Yet, because Evans’ price is so low it’s tempted so owners to take a gamble, hoping to cash in on a cheap player while allocating other funds from their salary cap to other more expensive ones. Don’t be fooled, Evans is not going to make any impact, and in fact could go the entire game without getting a target, let alone a catch. It’s OK to identify sleepers and good buy-low candidates. However, Evans is not one of those players.
TIGHT ENDS - SIT ‘EM
Jake Ballard (New York Giants) @ San Francisco
Unexpected would be the best way to describe Giants tight end Jake Ballard. The undrafted rookie out of Ohio State managed to earn the trust of quarterback Eli Manning, and that helped him to 604 receiving yards and four touchdowns during the regular season. Ballard also features prominently in the Giants’ red zone and goal-line packages. However the matchup against the 49ers is a bad one. In their last 11 games the 49ers have given up just two touchdowns to tight ends, and one of those was that amazing 66-yarder caught by the Saints’ Jimmy Graham last week. Ballard’s got decent hands but has nowhere near the athleticism of Graham, and the 49ers will have no problem containing him.
Ed Dickson (Baltimore Ravens) @ New England
Another player that some people are considering a good buy-low candidate this week is Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson. Though he flew under the radar his statistics were comparable to Ballard’s, who was considering a good mid-season find. The problem with Dickson is two-fold. First is the quarterback situation with Joe Flacco. Flacco is notorious for struggling in the playoffs, and even though he had two touchdowns and no interceptions last week against the Houston Texans, safety Ed Reed called him out in the media for not playing well. The second is the matchup. Though the Patriots have generally been bad on defense this season they have defended tight ends well, limiting them to an average of just 4.7 fantasy points per game. That was the second-best mark in the league.
KICKERS - SIT ‘EM
Billy Cundiff (Baltimore Ravens) @ New England
If you’ve read the previous sections of this article you realize we’re not too fond of the Ravens this week, and that also goes for kicker Billy Cundiff as well. With the Ravens expected to struggle against the Patriots, especially given Flacco’s poor history in the playoffs, that’s going to affect Cundiff as well. Cundiff hasn’t attempted more than two field goals in a game since Week 13, which means that most of his points come from extra points. Also consider the Patriots do well against kickers, limiting them to an average of just 6.2 fantasy points per game. That would be about the max to expect out of Cundiff this week.
DEFENSE/SPECIAL TEAMS - SIT ‘EM
Ravens D/ST @ New England
It was a tough decision to decide which defense and special teams unit to put on the list but ultimately it’s Baltimore that gets the nod. The Patriots scored 45 points last week against the Broncos. Their offense is third in the league in points per game (32.1) and second in total yards per game (428) and passing yards per game (317.8). The Ravens defense is stout, there’s no doubt there. However, given how inconsistent the offense is along with how good Tom Brady and the Patriots are, it looks like there will be plenty of opportunities for the Patriots to score, which is what they do best.
Page 2 of 2