What have we learned through three weeks? Welp, Chris Johnson is still the worst, and running back is still the most injury-riddled position of all time ever. So yeah, pretty much exactly how the script was written.
Oh, and Joe Flacco is leading all quarterbacks in fantasy points, and Rob Gronkowski is behind Dennis Pitta and Martellus Bennett.
Onwards then, for more surprise and heartache awaits.
The top three most favorable matchups
1. Cedric Benson vs. NO: I find it enjoyable to take a risk, or at least a mild one, as although Cedric Benson showed some life last week with his 45 rushing yards and a touchdown, he still averaged only 2.6 yards per carry. So since he’s very much an afterthought in a passing offense, under normal circumstances he’s a flex play at best, or a decent RB3 as bye weeks begin. But this week is the exception, as he’s running against a front seven that’s giving up an average of 215 yards per game thus far, and is a week removed from handing Jamaal Charles 288 all-purpose yards. Start Benson, and do it with confidence.
2. Michael Turner vs. CAR: Rolling with another aging running back, Model T needs to keep his momentum going in an ideal matchup against a unit that made Andre Brown look like the giant that goes by the same first name last Thursday when he ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns in just his first career start. After averaging less than three yards per game over the first two weeks, Turner then raised that to 5.7 in Week 3 against the Chargers, showing he still may have some life left.
3. Stevie Johnson vs. NE: A poor Patriots secondary last year has resumed its display of disappointment early this year, and is ranked 25th. What’s even better is that the Pats have already given up 13 receptions for 20 yards or more, and although they held Johnson in check once last year (40 yards in Week 17), he had 94 yards in Week 3, and he scored twice.
The top three least unfavorable matchups
1. Chris Johnson @HOU: Your Johnson frustration has already resulted in a divorce and inappropriately high levels of morphine ingestion (yes, ingestion). We talk about averages a lot in this space every week because they gauge patterns that predict possible performances and trends. So, for the two of you out there somewhere
over Dwayne Bowe who were actually thinking about starting Johnson this weekend, know this, chumps: he’s averaging 15 yards per game (!!!), while the Texans are giving up 67.7 weekly on 3.8 per carry. Those are death numbers, sort of like the 10 of spades.
2. Shonn Greene vs. SF: Here’s another cautionary tale which should kill any thought you have of flexing a Jets RB. You’re aware that the 49ers run defense is kind of a big deal, and through three games they’ve already recovered four fumbles. Green has a fumble problem that’s never truly gone away, and although he didn’t lose either of them, he fumbled twice earlier this year in Week 1.
3. Carson Palmer @ DEN: Maybe you prioritized running backs and wide receivers early in your draft, and maybe you’re cool with getting high middle tier quarterback production from Ben Roethlisberger. Early that’s not looking like a crazy idea, hypothetical strategist, because Big Ben is fifth in fantasy points with 83, ahead of others who were drafted much higher (Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers). So whatcha gonna do this week with Roethlisberger on his bye? I’m excited to find out, but stay the hell away from that Carson Palmer idea. He threw three interceptions last year against Denver, finishing with a passer rating of 79.7. Two of those picks landed in Champ Bailey’s hands.
The guy you should bench
I know you just made that sly waiver wire claim on Mikel Leshoure, and you’re really excited to look really smart. But hold on there, Ken Jennings, you ho lover. Leshoure had a 100-yard game against Tennessee that’s a little overrated, because that’s what we do with 100-yard games. He was a plodding volume runner, with 12 yards his longest run of the day. Now he’ll face a vikings defense that hasn’t even allowed an 80-yard runner yet, and is giving up pretty much zero chunk yardage to RBs, as the longest run against the Vikes through three games has been 15 yards.
That all applies with a healthy Leshoure, but of course a healthy Leshoure only exists in folktales. Although he’s expected to play, Leshoure has been limited in practice all week after dealing with soreness and is officially listed as questionable, so the Lions could lighten his workload somewhat and give Kevin Smith a few more touches. Say, maybe giving a running back 30 carries when he’s making his first career start after recovering from an ACL injury wasn’t such a great idea.
The potential weather concerns
The life of a weatherman is one of sorrow, anger, and flying milkshakes. It is a noble, thankless profession. We tip our hat to you, sirs.
It could be miserable in Buffalo tomorrow, which is sort of like saying it’s romantic in Paris. But this time there’s a 60 percent chance of rain, which could make throwing a football a less than enjoyable experience for Tom Brady and Ryan Fitzpatrick, knocking down their numbers and those of their receivers, while helping the bottom lines of their running backs.
The chances of thunder and such are lower in Jacksonville, but there’s still a 40 percent chance of a storm during the Jaguars-Bengals game, which drops to 30 percent in Tampa, with winds there reaching 10 mph.
The stat(s) that will make you happy
Last year, the Eagles had the Dream Team in place, and had one of either Nnamdi Asomugha or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie shadowing Victor Cruz. Or maybe also Asante Samuel, because he was around too, and he’s also pretty good. And last year, Cruz was essentially the equivalent Rasmes Barden: a nobody who might have the talent to do this wide receiver thing.
It didn’t matter, because over two games Cruz had 238 yards at an incredible pace of 26.4 yards per catch, and he scored three times. With Hakeem Nicks likely out and Barden also drawing attention for his deep threat ability, Sunday could indeed be a fun day for Cruz owners.
The best case scenario for…Robert Griffin III
The Shanahans who run the Washington football team take the necessary steps to minimize the beatings Griffin takes for at least one week, knowing that the option may not be nearly as effective against the Bucs’ front seven, the league’s best run defense. So instead Griffin airs it out against the league’s worst secondary that’s only a week removed from being torched by Eli Manning for 510 passing yards. No worries, brah.
Bold-ish prediction for Robert Griffin III: 326 passing yards, two passing TDs, 31 rushing yards
The worst case scenario for…Michael Vick
The Eagles’ offensive line continues to have the resistance of a cheese carving after Vick was sacked five times last week. That won’t end well against Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Jason Pierre-Paul, and even though he wasn’t sacked last year during the one Giants-Eagles game he was healthy for, pressure led to an unproductive day.
In Week 3 of last year Vick had just 176 passing yards, with no touchdowns and an interception.
Bold-ish prediction for Vick: 212 passing yards, two INTs, 28 rushing yards.
The guy who’s currently sleeping
Jon Baldwin has been in Oliver Macklem’s dreams. Or rather, his fantasies. Or rather, his dreams about fantasy, and deep fantasy sleep. Yeah, that’s it.
Whatever it is, he’s ever so slowly moving up the Chiefs’ wide receiver depth chart, which is partly his doing, and mostly a product of Steve Breaston’s continued inability get open, a core wide receiver skill (Breaston has only 32 receiving yards through three games). But Baldwin had five receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers last year — Kansas City’s opponent this week — the only game all season in which he had more than 30 yards. And now he could be poised for a significant increase in targets with Dwayne Bowe listed as questionable with a knee injury after being limited in practice all week, and Breaston also questionable (groin).
Bowe will be a game-time decision, meaning his owners in deep leagues may even consider making a speculative insurance add and rostering Baldwin, preparing to use him as a flex play in a favorable matchup.
The appropriate song lyrics of the week
We’ve been over why this will be a low point for Chris Johnson tomorrow against the Texans run defense during a season that’s seemingly already tumbled far beyond rock bottom. Unless you enjoy anguish, sit him.
“I drive really slow in the ultra fast lane
While people behind me are going insane
I’m an asshole”
– Dennis Leary