S.P. - Spotlighted Player
Kansas City running back Jamaal Charles is the key cog that makes the Chiefs offense churn every week. When Charles is healthy and behind quarterback Matt Cassel, he has a profound effect on the flow of the game, even when he doesn't have the pigskin in his hands. Such is the case on this play against the Pittsburgh Steelers from Monday Night, as Charles will be utilized as a decoy.
The Chiefs love loading up the line of scrimmage with big bodies to create big holes through which Charles can glide. This is the reason for the Singleback set with just one wide receiver split out and Dwayne Bowe in motion blocking on the left side of the line (highly creative).
Ultimately, this brings the Steelers secondary up towards the box and forces them to naturally guess run. The fact that Charles is in the backfield with just 3 yards to get for the first down really makes it imperative that the defense gets up to the line quickly, which as you can see by the black arrows, they do.
Cornerback Keenan Lewis is the key to the success of the play, though, as he's supposed to have man coverage to the outside if the play is a pass, especially with just one safety (Cover 1 defense) deep, while the other is playing the run. Lewis bites on the Charles play fake, and takes himself completely out of the play, while Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki heads up field.
In the end, just safety Ryan Clark is there to defend the pass down the field, but, by the time he gets over, Moeaki already has the ball and is looking for extra yardage. The end result is an easy 38-yard catch and run, which was all set up by Charles' presence in the backfield and the anticipation of a run on second down.
B.P. - Burnt Purple
Baltimore tight end Ed Dickson usually doesn't get much love within the Ravens offense due to his slippery butter fingers. However, against the Oakland Raiders' undisciplined defense, any player on any given Sunday can look like a hero.
On this particular play the Ravens are lined up in a Shotgun four receiver formation getting to run "Four Verticals." Tight ends Dickson (purple route) and Dennis Pitta (inside black route) man the slot spots in this look, while Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith are lined up wide on each side. Running back Ray Rice will line up alongside quarterback Joe Flacco for extra protection for what is going to be a down-the-field pass.
The Raiders have deployed a Nickel Cover 2 Defense - two deep safeties and man coverage to every receiver, including Dickson who has a linebacker (circled in purple) lined up in front of him. The safeties are instructed to take the deepest portion of the field they are lined up on, which is what they'll do.
Now, Smith and Boldin actually will be the prime reads on straight fly routes in man-to-man coverage, especially if either of the two deep safeties, Tyvon Branch or Matt Giordano, stay to the inside slot routes. Dickson and Pitta essentially are decoys, and at least Dickson is expected to draw help from the deep safety.
In the end, Raiders safety Giordano doesn't provide deep support for the linebacker in man coverage on Dickson. The outcome is an easy pitch and catch from Flacco to his big backup tight end.
It has become clear to me that the weakest link of the Raiders defense is indeed the back end of their secondary due to the lack of talented and disciplined personnel. Look for Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints offense to rip them apart through the air and on the ground. Running back Chris Ivory and wide receiver Devery Henderson are even good starts this week, and don't be surprised if backup tight end David Thomas gets in to the end-zone fun as well.
R.T. - Random Thoughts
If I had one million dollars to spend here's how I'd spend it...
Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton has been struggling as of late, but with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home this week I like him as a Top 3 player. The Buccaneers are allowing 321.3 yards and almost two touchdowns per game through the air. Unfortunately, though, Newton was still listed at a mega rate of $400.000.
New England is back at home to face an Indianapolis Colts team that is red hot. However, it's also a team that is surrendering 120.3 rushing yards on the ground. Plus, with how good Andrew Luck has been this season I'm going to play the running red, white, and blue odds and take both Stevan Ridley ($200,000) and Danny Woodhead ($100,000).
With Michael Vick likely to be out with a "pretty significant" concussion my lock of the week has to be wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Maclin insists that he is playing, so I'll take my chances. The Washington Redskins are horrid against the pass (2,806 yards and 20 touchdowns allowed) this season, and No. 18 seems to be rookie quarterback Nick Foles' favorite target. If Maclin doesn't go I'll take Riley Cooper instead, and I would spend the same too ($300,000).
Thanks for reading!
Eric Huber is a Senior Writer for fantasysharks.com and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can email him your thoughts firstname.lastname@example.org