The much anticipated Browns vs. Ravens contest will be taking over America's TV this Thursday night, and along with it, comes a world of fantasy potential.
In a week where fantasy football owners have a number of quality matchups to exploit, the Browns vs. Ravens clearly lead the pack in a variety of ways—most of which will come from the Baltimore side, but don't rule out a few surprises from Cleveland.
Let's take a look at the game breakdown and the other match-ups I like and dislike this week.
Browns vs. Ravens:
Like I said earlier, the Baltimore Ravens offer fantasy owners much more in the way of golden opportunities than the Cleveland Browns. The main fantasy football focal point will be on RB Ray Rice, WR Torrey Smith and TE Dennis Pitta.
Last week, WR Torrey Smith torched the New England Patriots catching 6 balls for 127 yards and two touchdowns. This week Smith faces a Cleveland Browns team that ranks third in fantasy points against WRs allowed (31.8 FFPts/G). The Browns struggle heavily to cover down-field threats as it is and they struggle even further against speedy down-field threats like Smith.
The Browns are without their top corner Joe Haden (suspension) which is the major cause for their inept secondary. This situation also bodes well for fellow receivers Anquan Boldin and Jacoby Jones.
Boldin—a "possession" receiver—will hold a great deal of value out of the slot in PPR leagues. He may also hold some additional value in Standard formats, as the Ravens are likely to counter the Browns with Boldin when they focus coverage on TE Dennis Pitta, which we'll get to in a minute.
Jacoby Jones figures to be the alternative deep-ball threat when Torrey Smith is doubled up. He makes for a fine WR 3/4, but remember that he could be utilized in specific situations only, limiting his overall potential.
TE Dennis Pitta has certainly been making a name for himself as well in fantasy, and a lot of that has to do with Baltimore's new two-TE looks that favor Pitta.
The Browns are pretty good at covering TEs, and they will look to eliminate Pitta early, as a way of neutralizing QB Joe Flacco.
RB Ray Rice is set to dominate the Browns in this contest as well, but you may have to wait for his production to come in garbage time, after the Ravens build their lead through the air.
From the Cleveland Browns side of the field, there's nothing but slim pickings even with RB Trent Richardson on the field. I do want you to keep an eye on TE Jordan Cameron.
Mohamed Massaquoi will not be active for this contest and in his place will be WR Jordan Norwood, while fellow receiver Greg Little is still learning how to catch a football.
Now that we've taken a look at the Browns vs. Ravens game, let's take a quick look at some other matchups heading into this week.
Other Top Matchups To Exploit:
Green Bay vs. New Orleans: A wild shootout could be on the horizon, and in addition, Packers RB Cedric Benson is primed for a breakout week.
New England vs. Buffalo: The Bills could be playing from behind in this one which could add tremendous value to WRs T. J. Graham and Stevie Johnson, while potentially de-valuing RB Fred Jackson and Tashard Choice. New England has a long history of torching the Bills, and WR Brandon Lloyd has a tasty matchup against rookie corner Stephon Gilmore.
Top Matchup to Avoid:
Anybody on the Rams: The Seahawks arguably have the best secondary in football, and are as stingy as they come. This is primarily because of the two corners (Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman) and two safeties ( Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas) who are just as big and physical as the receivers they face.
The other issue here is Seattle pass rush led by DE Chris Clemons. But this Seattle team has so many players they rotate in, that it is hard for any line that faces them to adjust. This one-two punch Seattle is deploying wreaks havoc on any passing game—just ask Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
The Rams aren't exactly the greatest passing, or pass-blocking team in the world as it is, and even their run game is ineffective and somewhat unhealthy, lending favor to the notion that anyone on the Rams this week is a near certain fantasy football player/situation to avoid.
Ironically enough, IDP owners have a plethora of players to choose from if they are in need of a spot "DP" player for a fill-in job.