Prime time NFL games are better than most experiences we have in our existence as humans. There are very few things that I rank ahead of such an NFL game, and they usually involve two people becoming co-people.
To be clear, any football is the kind of football which charges blood to parts of the body that only receive it during moments of extreme excitement. However, what’s unique about prime time games is that there’s no football to distract us from football. There are times when the attempt to watch nine games simultaneously in the early time slot becomes difficult for even the most skilled clicker wizard, which means while key moments usually aren’t missed, the momentum and emotional swings of the game aren’t captured.
That’s not a problem when the game is under the Sunday, Monday, or Thursday night lights, as another surely classic Ravens-Patriots tilt is tonight. So for that, we are thankful, for after a day of football, we always need more football.
That applies to all of us, except anyone who owns Brandon Lloyd. For Lloyd owners, Sunday Night Football is the devil.
The Patriots wideout is listed as questionable for tonight after struggling with a thigh injury all week, and he was a limited participant in all three practices. Since saying anything about injuries violates the Belichickian code, we know very little about Lloyd’s injury and its severity beyond what we’ve seen in the injury report — which consists of a name and a body part in brackets — and the very educates guesses from Pats beat writers which have turned into widespread assumptions that are still, well, guesses.
Hell, we can make our own very similar guess based on the fact that even if Lloyd was limited, he was still practicing. He’ll play, and it’s likely that the Patriots were merely managing the reps of an injured 31-year-old receiver all week. Still, the problem of time is looming, and specifically the time the game clock will start ticking during tonight’s game.
That’s because tonight’s game is, um, tonight. So even though you’re confident in Lloyd’s availability (as you should be), and even though you’re anxious to start a deep threat who should receive even more targets with the Pats adjusting to life without Aaron Hernandez (as you should be), some apprehension and caution should linger.
We may not get a definitive word on Lloyd’s status until later in the day, or possibly right before kickoff. By then, the rest of your receivers will have played, most likely including any depth option you could have used off the bench to replace Lloyd. The exception, of course, is if you’re a Randall Cobb owner, or have any of the mediocre so far due to their rookie quarterback but still capable Seahawks receivers who play Monday night.
Even if he was fully healthy, Lloyd’s matchup still isn’t great against a secondary that’s held opposing quarterbacks — including Michael Vick last week — to a 78.9 passer rating through two weeks. What’s even more worrisome is that the Ravens have been especially tough on Tom Brady, picking him off four times over their last two meetings, and holding him to a meager rating of 57.5 during last January’s playoff game.
Even with those factors considered, your decision is still easy despite the late game status and despite Lloyd’s lack of health. You start him, but you do it with lowered expectations, knowing that this week he’ll likely provide only mid to low-end WR3 numbers, whereas often he’s good for high-end WR2 production.
The exception to this move again applies to Cobb owners. Greg Jennings can be a big tough bro all he wants while bench pressing jet skis, but he’s still listed as questionable for tomorrow night, and therefore at the very least he’ll remain limited by his groin injury if he plays at all (he’ll be a game-time decision too…gulp).
We saw what happened last week when Jennings didn’t start. The creativity around Cobb’s usage increased before he missed a chunk of the game with his own minor injury. James Jones is an option for the same reason, and more desperate owners could also reach for Golden Tate.
Cobb and/or Jones could and should produce very similar numbers to Lloyd tomorrow night, and so could Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice, with Tate on the very low end of the low WR3′s. Hopefully you were also able to pick up Julian Edelman as insurance against a last-minute scratch. But those are the only options the risk averse Lloyd owner should consider as alternatives if they’re available to you.