Our weekly look at the Ravens' matchup from a fantasy football perspective...
Just when all thought we were out of the Ray Rice as an RB2 business this season, a tasty matchup pulls us back in. The Patriots rank 31st against the run and allowed two receiving scores to backs last week. Rice only had 12 carries against the Lions on Monday night, but he averaged a healthy 4.7 yards per carry. He's been a decent pass receiving threat most of the season to boot. No matter how one slices, this is not an upside play; Rice has topped 75 rushing yards only this season. Still, expect the Ravens to go with a ground game and ball control approach. Keeps Tom Brady off the field and works the soft middle of New England's defense. Rice is the key man in that plan. Low-end RB2 or Flex in Week 16.
For thoughts on the Ravens pass catchers, we turn to Rotoworld's Evan Silva: "[Torrey] Smith is the Ravens' clear-cut No. 1 receiver and a WR2 play with some upside in Week 16. Smith has 69-plus yards and/or a TD in six of his last seven games. Enemy No. 1 receiver stats against New England over the past four weeks: Andre Johnson 8-121; Demaryius Thomas 4-41-1; Josh Gordon 7-151-1; Mike Wallace 6-105-1.
"The only thing consistent about [Jacoby] Jones and [Marlon] Brown's box-score production is their back-and-forth flipping and flopping of productive efforts. I've found no way to get a handle on which Baltimore complementary wideout is going to have a good game in a given week. They're fantasy WR4s at best. ... [Dennis] Pitta was another Monday night disappointment, securing 2-of-4 targets for 24 yards one week after seeing 11 targets. Pitta's playing time has increased more slowly than anticipated, as he remained a sub-50% player against the Lions. He's still squarely on the low-end TE1 radar versus a Patriots defense allowing the fifth most receptions (78) and seventh most yards (838) to tight ends."
Joe Flacco hasn't thrown for 300 yards in any game since Week 6. The Super Bowl MVP has 18 touchdown passes and 17 interceptions. He suffered a mild knee injury last week, but is expected to face the Patriots. None of that sounds fantasy worthy because it's not. The potential comes from New England having allowed three TDP in each of its last two games. Seeing as Flacco has just one game all season with at least three TDP (Week 14), don't count on him doing likewise. He's a middling QB2, just like most weeks. The good news for Flacco enthusiasts? The NFL playoffs are almost here.
The defense and the kicker
Use the Ravens defense against Tom Brady if you must. He's thrown one interception in three straight games, but only 10 all season. If the expected inclement weather hits hard, perhaps that leads to more New England miscues. Better off looking elsewhere ...Coming off six field goals against the Lions including a game-winning 61-yarder, Justin Tucker is must start for all fantasy owners whether they're Justin Tucker or not.
On the other side...
Shane Vereen went from averaging eight receptions in four straight games to just three for nine yards in Week 15. Over the last two games, only five carries. In PPR formats we're still talking about an RB with Brady looking his way. In standard, Vereen can still make enough players overall for low-end RB2/Flex status. As for LeGarrette Blount and Steven Ridley, neither receive enough work to rely on and the Patriots cannot be trusted roles on a week-to-week basis. However the Ravens have allowed a rushing score in three straight 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.