For realz, if Ryan Mathews doesn’t resemble a capable NFL running back this week, you have my permission to gorge on the Sloppy Roethlisberger, and let it seep through your pores and drown your depression.
This week’s Sunday preview is slightly abbreviated due to an industry conference Friday in which pants were optional, and Thanksgiving here in the great nation of Canada, which is also the reason why content will be a little slower around these parts Monday. Chill, America, your Turkey day is coming in about six weeks, and it’s so much better because you get football, while up here we actually have to talk to our families and stuff.
So let’s venture into the darkness of Week 5.
The top three most favorable matchups
1. Ryan Mathews vs. New Orleans: I hear your voices of sorrow, Ryan Mathews owners, and you’re frantic and worried about impending doom. But know this despite anything you hear to the contrary, including any words that come from any Charger coach or executive: the amount of work given to Jackie Battle last Sunday was about sending a message, and it was received loudly. Call Mathews injury prone, and call him other adjectives that contain four or fewer letters. But then call him another one: talented. He’s simply talented, and despite missing two games and being limited in others, he still had 1,546 all-purpose yards last year. If Mathews can’t tear apart a Saints rushing defense that’s allowing 186.8 rushing yards per game (!!!) and has already allowed three carries for 40 or more yards through only four games, then you officially need to throw him in a burning pile of garbage.
2. Alfred Morris vs. Atlanta: When we consider that two of the Falcons’ wins have been by a point differential of at least two touchdowns (most notably the 27-3 spanking of San Diego in Week 3), it’s a uniquely awful accomplishment that they’ve still given up 114.5 yards per game to running backs, and 146.2 per game on the ground overall.
3. Eli Manning vs. Cleveland: Joe Haden will sit out the last game of his suspension, and while having a healthy Hakeem Nicks would be a welcome addition to the WR corps for Eli Manning, Domenick Hixon and/or Ramses Barden have been filling in just fine. Last week the Browns allowed Anquan Boldin to accumulate 131 receiving yards. And sure, he’s pretty good and all, but prior to that game he only had 118 yards over three weeks.
The top three unfavorable matchups
1. Andrew Luck vs. Green Bay: Prior to the Colts’ Week 4 bye, Luck faced the cushiest, most inviting defense he’s opposed in his young career, as the Jaguars still only have two sacks on the season. That’s dramatically lower than the Packers and their 14, and it means Clay Matthews alone has outpaced the lowly Jags with his seven. If you’re in a deep league and you’re forced to start Luck this week due to Matthew Stafford or Tony Romo sitting out with byes, do it with severely lowered expectations.
2. Jamaal Charles vs. Baltimore: I’m sure you’ve noticed that Charles is a pretty fast fellow, and he therefore thrives in situations where he can get the edge, and use his breakaway speed to accelerate into the second level and down the field. Well, over their last 20 games the Ravens have allowed only five runs of 20 yards or more.
3. Brandon Lloyd vs. Denver: In Denver’s four games, the opposition’s top wideout has exceeded 80 receiving yards only once. That’s good production, but it’s not game-breaking production, and Marshall will be in an especially deep hole against Champ Bailey.
The guy you should bench
This is an excruciating week for wide receiver byes, so I could pretty much put any receiver in this spot, and you will quite rightfully ignore me since you’re dealing with the absence of Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Vincent Jackson, or Calvin Johnson. And fair enough, but Jeremy Maclin is at best only a low-end WR3 this week, and maybe even just a flex play.
He’ll deny it, because he’s a player and denying you information about his injury is in his blood. But last week he only received one target despite playing nearly every snap during the Eagles’ win over Dallas (64 of 69), and he was unable to get any separation whatsoever from Prince Amukamara. Now this week with a hip injury that may or may not be 100 percent healed, he’s facing the league’s best secondary, with the Steelers giving up only 5.6 yards per pass attempt.
The stat(s) that will make you happy
Last week Dennis Pitta made us depressed, angry, and then depressed again. After having 188 receiving yards over the first three weeks (62.6 per game) and leading all tight ends in targets with 31 targets, he did nothing against the Browns. And I don’t mean that in the figurative, rage-filled sense. I mean that literally.
He didn’t have a single reception and he wasn’t targeted even once despite playing in 71.2 of the Ravens’ offensive snaps. We’ve already told you why one day very soon we’ll look back and laugh gleefully at that game while sipping something that comes in a glass that makes you look like a douchebag. In short, Pitta’s numbers were victimized by a game plan, and the desire to stretch the field against a team that wasn’t very good at defending such a tactic without Joe Haden.
That will change this week. The Chiefs have allowed 50 or more yards to a tight end in three of their four games, which is fine production from the TE position. That stretch includes the Bills’ Scott Chandler in Week 2, and at the time it was only the fourth 50-yard game of his career.
The best case scenario for…Matt Forte
He gets the bulk of the workload a week after being somewhat limited due to a lingering ankle injury. And when that happens, Forte capitalizes on one of the best matchups of the week for a premier player, gashing a defense that’s giving up 150.2 rushing yards per game.
However, that overall number is a little skewed in this case, and the Forte owner needs to hope the defense that held BenJarvus Green-Ellis to only 3.2 yards per carry last week doesn’t show up, and instead the unit that was ripped apart by Arian Foster and Ben Tate for a combined 184 yards appears instead. Yeah, that would be swell.
Bold-ish prediction for Forte: 153 rushing yards, 33 receiving yards, 1 TD
The worst case scenario for…Fred Jackson and/or C.J. Spiller
The 49ers continue to be the 49ers, and crush football players who attempt to run with a ball. But forget the lack of rushing yards they allow, because we all know that’s scary. What’s troubling is the Niners’ tendency to strip the ball from the hands of those who try to carry it.
It’s a category they finished second in last year with 10, and they’ve forced one fumble per game this year with four overall. Jackson fumbled last week, while Spiller has already lost two fumbles over four games.
Bold-ish prediction for total Buffalo rushing yards: 92 yards
The guy who’s currently sleeping
On Tuesday you’ll read multiple columns from Internet people calling for the head of Mark Sanchez, or a body part of some kind. And they’ll all be absolute morons. How, exactly, is Sanchez expected to succeed against the Texans — the league’s best defense — with Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens as the starting wideouts? Santonio Holmes is gone for the year and Stephen Hill will almost definitely sit with a hamstring injury after missing practice Friday, while Dustin Keller is likely out again too.
Jeremy Kerley and Chaz Schilens. Seriously.
But watch Kerley, because this could be an opportunity for the fast but small wideout not only in this game, but also going forward. Holmes was the Jets’ only true deep threat, a role Kerley takes over because, well, there’s no one else. For deep leaguers, he’s a player to monitor this week to see how both he and the offense respond to a tough matchup, and how he’s used after primarily being a slot receiver.