Special to FV by: Harley Schultz
1. Antonio Gates @ JAX
Jacksonville has been tough against opposing tight ends allowing a total of only 59 yards per game and allowing only one tight end1 to top 37 yards. However they have allowed five tight end touchdowns over their last four games. Gates has finished with fewer than 55 yards only twice this year and he is averaging 6-77. He has scored twice. Philip Rivers is throwing his arm out of socket and that only adds to Gates' must-start status this week.
2. Jordan Cameron @ GB
Opposing tight ends have averaged 6-77 so far against the Packers and they have allowed four tight end touchdowns so far this year despite facing only one upper-tier tight end, Vernon Davis. And Davis went off for 6-98-2. Without Brian Hoyer under center, Jordan Cameron has struggled the last two weeks, averaging only 4-50 after four dominant starts to begin the season. It's possible that the league is getting wise to his game, and I'm sure that Brandon Weeden's return has played into the downgrade in production for Cameron as well. Most likely, though, Josh Gordon is eating his looks. Gordon was targeted 20 times last week. That'll kill any other receivers' production. That said I'm not gonna bench one of the top five tight ends in the league against this defense, especially with Clay Matthews missing in the middle.
3. Jason Witten @ PHI
Philadelphia's defense continues to prove useless against opposing wide receivers, but they have been solid against tight ends. Of course they have only faced two legit tight ends so far in Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas. Of those two Gates got a line of 8-124 while Thomas recorded a 4-43 and neither of them scored. Outside of those two no tight end has topped 38 yards against the Eagles this year. Tony Romo uses Witten a lot like Philip Rivers uses Antonio Gates which should mean that Witten will produce closer to Gates 8-124 line than the 3-32 line that the Eagles have allowed on average to all other tight ends. Witten hasn't scored in four straight matchups with his division rival, but did manage to top 100 yards in their last meeting.
4. Julius Thomas @ IND
Julius Thomas has scored at least one touchdown in five of six games so far which makes a stronger trend than the fact that Indianapolis only allowed one tight end touchdown. It remains to be seen if the Colts incorporate some of the same defensive strategies that the Jaguars used to slow down the Peyton-led juggernaut last week. The Broncos are so well rounded, if you take away one part of their game plan, then they beat you another way. Last week Jacksonville held Eric Decker & Demaryius Thomas to a total of eight receptions, so instead they attacked the middle of the field with Knowshon Moreno, Orange Julius, Wes Welker, and Ronnie Hillman.
5. Vernon Davis @ TEN
Vernon Davis continued his stellar season last week by obliterating Arizona with an 8-180-2 line on eleven targets. He has now scored at least once in four of the five games he has played in and he has topped 85 yards in three of those games. The Titans have allowed four tight end touchdowns so far this year but none the last two weeks. Alterraun Verner will obliterate his half of the field, but hopefully he'll be busy with Anquan Boldin whenever they share Verner's side.
6. Martellus Bennett @ WAS
Martellus Bennett may be the fourth option for Jay Cutler as he reads through his progressions, but that hasn't kept him from gaining 49 or more yards in every game this year and averaging 6-71 per game over the last three. Washington has allowed four tight end touchdowns so far this year but they did hold Jason Witten in check last week. In weeks one and two, Washington allowed both Brent Celek and Jermichael Finley to score and play well. Since then, the other two tight end touchdowns have come at the hands of non-fantasy relevant players. As long as Cutler continues to thrive in Marc Trestman's offense Bennett will remain fantasy relevant, and a top-ten tight end even as Cutler's fourth option.
7. Tony Gonzalez vs. TBB
With Roddy White battling a hamstring injury and Julio Jones out for the year the Not-So-Old Mother Ryan went to the cupboard, and all that was left was his 37-year old tight end Tony Gonzalez. Tampa Bay has allowed opposing tight ends to average 5-70 over their first five games. That number is artificially inflated by the fact that 258 of those 350 yards came in the first two games against Jimmy Graham and Kellen Winslow. With no one else to throw to, Gonzo will be heavily active in the Atlanta passing game this week. But with no other threats on the field, I worry that Tampa may have Darrelle Revis shadow him on obvious passing downs. Either way, Gonzo is the entirety of Atlanta's passing game right now, so by sheer volume he makes a top play this week.
8. Jermichael Finley vs. CLE
With Randall Cobb out and James Jones questionable for this weeks' game against Cleveland, there is a very good chance that we see more of Jermichael Finley lined up as a receiver instead of just at tight end. Joe Haden will shadow the last man standing, Jordy Nelson, taking him out of this contest and leaving Aaron Rodgers to throw to Jarrett Boykin and Finley. After watching Boykin drop two of his six targets, and catch only one pass, which way do you think Rodgers will lean in that circumstance?
9. Heath Miller vs. BAL
Baltimore is allowing an average of 5-74-0.5 to tight ends so far this year including getting clobbered by Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron, and Jermichael Finley to a combined tune of 13-280-2. Despite those numbers, Baltimore has allowed a total of only three passing touchdowns since Week 1 making a touchdown no sure thing. One of those three scores did go to H-Back/pseudo-tight end, Charles Clay so there is a chance Miller could score, but I'll just be happy with the yardage numbers he'll put up this week. Since returning from injury, Miller is averaging 5-63, and over his last three matchups with Baltimore he is averaging 4-64. If he posts in somewhere in that vicinity he should finish as a top tight end this week.
10. Rob Gronkowski @ NYJ
This pick is assuming that James Andrews finally unleashes the Gronk this coming week. Most of Rob Gronkowski's fantasy owners (and from news reports several of his teammates) are getting sick of Gronk practicing like a workout warrior all week and then not playing on Sunday. Either he is good to go or he isn't. This isn't even a Bill Belichick trick-the-opposition play either, this is Gronk choosing to not play based on the word of a doctor who has no reason or initiative or skin in the game to suggest that Gronk should give it a go. [ then why is he ranked #7?!?!]Gronk did not play in either of the Patriots last two games against the Jets (including the one earlier this year), but if you look at the two games prior to that (in which he did play) Gronk posted a combined 14-191-4.
1. Scott Chandler @ MIA
Defying any and all forms of logic and common sense, Scott Chandler has scored in more than one game this season. And both of the games he has scored in were against reasonably sound pass defenses. Miami is not a reasonably sound pass defense. This is one of the worst pass defenses in the league against opposing tight ends. They are allowing a robust average of 5-76-1.2. You certainly are not adding Chandler in hope of yardage. He only has one game this season with more than 50 yards receiving.But you are plugging him in for the rare chance that he scores again…something that seems reasonable against Miami. I suppose it plays in his favor if Stevie Johnson misses another game, because with fewer weapons to throw to, Thad Lewis will be forced to lean on his massive tight end once again this week.
2. Kyle Rudolph @ NYG
A funny thing happened to Minnesota on their way to getting their butts handed to them by Carolina last week. They actually remembered that they had a Pro Bowl grade tight end on their roster who they could throw to. Rudolph finished with a 9-98-1 line on eleven targets. In their first four games Rudolph was targeted a total of just 20 times. So it was obviously part of their plan to get him involved in the offense. The Giants are allowing an average of 6-71 to opposing tight ends and they have allowed five opposing tight end touchdowns so far this year. With the state of the Vikings offense in flux and no certainty at the QB position, whoever starts this Monday Night for Minnesota will need to lean on Rudolph to help move the chains.