Rice key to Ravens offense getting on track
Our weekly look at the Ravens' matchup from a fantasy football perspective...
For those paying no attention to the Browns since they faced Baltimore in Week 2, just know that corner Joe Haden is still really, really good. Only one WR1 (Jordy Nelson) has caught a touchdown against Haden in eight games this season. In that span, only one top shelf receiver has gone for over 60 yards against Cleveland: Torrey Smith, who hauled in seven receptions for 85 yards in the Week 2 matchup. It's worth noting that he's gone just 4-73 over the last two games. Considering the Ravens passing game struggles and the Haden factor, Smith ideally works as a high-end WR3 rather than a start in two-receiver formats.
For Joe Flacco's other targets, specifically Marlon Brown and Jacoby Jones, we have this from Rotoworld's Evan Silva:
"Harbaugh stated publicly prior to Week 7 he wanted Jones more involved in the pass offense. Flacco followed through in the last game, sending a team-high eight targets Jones' way despite weak efficiency (4-32). Jones started over Brown, though both were heavily involved with the latter playing slot receiver on most snaps. In a difficult matchup, the lack of No. 2 wideout clarity makes Brown and Jones Week 9 fantasy players to avoid. Jones just isn't a very good receiver, and Brown has been bumped down the pecking order, even if it's only slightly."
Yeah, what he said, but let me add the Browns have allowed three touchdowns receptions to wide outs over the last two weeks. As for the tight end position, Cleveland allows the 12th most receptions and touchdowns per week, though in the latter category that accounts for three in one week by Detroit's Joseph Fauria. Therefore, those with bye week issues can ponder Dallas Clark, but he's simply not terribly excited and Ed Dickson, even less so.
Ray Rice's season certainly hasn't been a strong one in either an NFL or a fantasy context thanks to his 2.8 yards per carry. Cleveland boasts a top-12 run defense so on paper this doesn't seem like a scenario for him to break out. Then again, Rice has been dealing with a hip flexor injury suffered in Week 2 against the Browns. He's made comments this week suggesting the health of said hip is good enough that we should see some his usual burst. With several teams on a bye, most owners have no choice but to start Rice, which is totally fine. Just look for something in the RB2 range until he starts showing he's a top tier option. Bernard Pierce remains no more than a depth play for now, but a must hold or add for any Rice owner.
Even during a fantasy week with Peyton Manning, Colin Kaepernick, Matthew Stafford and Eli Manning on byes, Joe Flacco isn't more than a middling QB2 option. Against the Browns in Week 2, he passed for 211 yards and one touchdown on 33 attempts. Even in this pass-happy NFL era, Flacco hasn't thrown for more than two scores in any game this season. For those with no other options, take note that the Browns have allowed 11 TDP over their last three games. Counting on similar production from the Ravens this season is an unwise assumption. Worth noting Flacco is the best fantasy QB in this game, but barely.
The defense and the kicker
Jason Campbell looked solid in his first start of the season for Cleveland last week.Eh, so what. The Ravens, second in sacks per game, should attack, attack, attack the semi-stiff passer early and often. Don't over think this and simply view Baltimore as a top-8 defense this week. As for kicker Justin Tucker, he's made 13 straight field goal attempts since missing his only two tries against the Browns in Week 2. Even though this game has a low-scoring feel, expect the Ravens to put their kicker into enough scoring positions, making Tucker a low-end K1 this week.
On the other side...
Start Josh Gordon, start Jordan Cameron, but don't start any of Cleveland's running backs. Baltimore allows the fewest points to fantasy runners. Willis McGahee hasn't topped 40 rushing yards or scored a touchdown in any of his last three games.
In addition to CSNwashington duties covering the Wizards, Hoyas and the college basketball scene, Ben writes about and ranks fantasy football players for FFToolbox.com, rated the most accurate site for the 2012 season.