I awoke late Sunday morning, flipped on the tube and awaited the latest injury and weather updates that might affect the afternoon games. Tweets of a whiteout in Foxborough came rolling in. The images on the television betrayed the hyperbole, but no small amount of snow had covered the pitch. Word came from reporters on the scene that “blizzard-like conditions” with sustained winds over 20 mph and gust of 50 mph were bound to wreak havoc on both offenses. The Broncos would lean heavily on Ronnie Hillman and Juwan Thompson. The Patriots would feed either Shane Vereen or Jonas Gray. It was a beautiful plan. The only problem was neither John Fox nor Bill Belichick got the memo and the Snow Miser left the stadium prior to the 4:25 kickoff. Chicken Little has this way of stirring the starting lineup pot with foreboding weather reports. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning were so intimidated that they limited themselves to 110 pass attempts for 771 yards.
Mychal Rivera is 6’3” and weighs in at 245. The sophomore reeled in eight catches and found the end zone twice on Sunday. You might recall another relatively obscure Raider Tight End with a similar build that came out of nowhere a couple of years ago to be a mid-range TE1. Brandon Myers was an opportunist that filled a void. Right now, the Raiders are tied for last in the NFL with just two rushing TD’s. Darren McFadden and Maurice Jones-Drew are not getting it done on the ground. That means it’s on rookie Derek Carr’s shoulders to distribute touchdowns. Rivera doesn’t have great speed or moves, but he has good hands and is a strong, decent-sized target that won’t get pushed around in the red zone or when the Raiders need to move the chains. Predicting player usage is a little like Russian Roulette, but if the Raiders want to move the chains and increase their red zone efficiency, they’ll continue to give Rivera more looks.
Many of you heard Dennis Pitta touted as a sleeper during the preseason due to his skill set and offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak’s Tight End friendly system. With Pitta on injured reserve, Owen Daniels is now the soup du jour in Baltimore and one of Joe Flacco’s favorite targets. The former Texan was Flacco’s most targeted receiver in Week 7 and Week 9 (missed Week 8 after having his knee scoped). Given Flacco’s inaccuracy when throwing more than 20 yards downfield, that trend could easily continue.
Minnesota Vikings wide receivers have been allergic to the end zone this year, finding pay dirt just thrice. Only the Kansas City Chiefs wideouts have been worse. Matt Asiata has shown flashes of being effective on the ground inside the five, but if he gets shut down, rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater may start looking more to Chase Ford, at least until Kyle Rudolph returns.
It seems like every year some young Cincinnati Bengals Tight End is hyped as a fantasy prospect. I fade that hype because, for the most part, Bengals coaches mistake tight ends for offensive linemen. They’re involvement in the offense has been minimal for over a decade. However, since Week 5, Jermaine Gresham has been Andy Dalton’s #2 target. A.J. Green is back and Gresham’s role will certainly diminish as Green’s snap count increases. Keep in mind, however, that turf toe has a tendency of flaring up rather easily. If it does, Gresham might be a serviceable fill-in for those dealing with injuries or bye week issues.
Nick Foles suffered a broken collarbone and will be sidelined indefinitely. Mark Sanchez is the next man up in the city of brotherly love. That’s all you need to know if you are stuck with Andy Dalton as your best QB. Even Greg Ambrosius could throw touchdowns in Chip Kelly’s system.
Michael Vick is pretty good when he’s not throwing interceptions and incompletions. Yes, I do but jest, but there is an element of truth in my jocularity. If you are desperate at quarterback, he might be worth the risk as a spot play in the right matchup, for instance Week 12, when the Jets face the Bills. Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton have byes that week, and Andy Dalton has to travel to Houston to face J.J. Watt. Would you want to roll out the Red Rifle if A.J. Green is out with turf toe again, or a strained foot, or whatever they want to call it this week?