Matt Ryan is the kindest angry man in the history of the anger emotion. Even when he wants us to believe that he’s all rah-rahed up, you still feel as though he’ll gladly run to hold doors open for you and wish your mother happy birthday three months in advance.
Exhibit A: his celebration seconds after the Falcons’ dramatic comeback win last week over the Redskins.
The red-faced mad man moment is followed by a polite, peaceful look that washes over Ryan’s face immediately, as if internally he’s saying “GET THE FUCK OFF MY FIELD!…but please exit in an orderly fashion to your left.”
Just be you, Matt, always be you. And by that I mean please torch the Raiders this week, and be the stud we need, and the stud we deserve.
Week 6 run down? Week 6 run down. Let’s do this.
The top three most favorable matchups
1. Matt Ryan vs. OAK: Nnamdi Asomugha isn’t walking through that door to save a Raiders secondary that’s allowing a league worst passer rating of 113.4 to opposing quarterbacks. Of course, there’s always the worry that in such a favorable matchup the game will get too lopsided too fast, and Ryan’s passing services won’t be needed.
2. A.J. Green @ CLE: Joe Haden returns to the Browns’ secondary this week after his four-game suspension, and that sucks, because in his absence Cleveland allowed 10 passing touchdowns while hauling in only three INTs, and opposing quarterbacks average 285.3 passing yards per game. However, Haden’s presence meant so very little to Green last year and his deep threat ability. Over the two meetings between the division rivals, Green needed only four catches to finish with 151 yards, and two of those catches were for over 40 yards, including a 41-yard TD grab.
3. Reggie Bush vs. STL: The Rams are a week removed from giving up 5.9 yards per carry to Marshawn Lynch. Overall St. Louis is allowing a middle of the pack-ish 117.2 rushing yards per game, but that number is highly inflated since they’ve faced a Cardinals team that lost Ryan Williams halfway through their Week 5 game, a Lions team that didn’t have Mikel Leshoure, and a Bears team that didn’t have Matt Forte.
The top three unfavorable matchups
1. Torrey Smith vs. DAL: With Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne lurking, it could be either Smith or Anquan Boldin here. But I’m more worried about Smith since he thrives on the deep, home run ball, and the Cowboys simply don’t allow many of those. In fact, Smith’s existence is almost solely based on the deep-ish ball, as intermediate routes occupy a small space in his football vocabulary. Of his 19 receptions, nine of them (47 percent) have been for 20 yards or more, and the Cowboys have only given up 12 receptions of that length thus far. Dallas has also allowed the fewest completions (64), and its one of just three teams that haven’t allowed a 40-yard catch yet.
2. Dwayne Bowe @ TB: Bowe is the NFL’s racoon, rifling through meaningless garbage time minutes and popping his head up with a really sweet Timex watch that someone chucked. That’s how he’s been able to average 80.4 yards per game despite being the No. 1 receiver for 23rd ranked passing offense in the league. And that could happen again this week, but I really hate his chances with Brady Quinn replacing Matt Cassel. As bad as Cassel was in Week 5 (when Bowe still somehow had a respectable 60 yards in a 9-6 game), Brady Quinn can’t escape his instinct to be Brady Quinn.
3. Stevie Johnson @ ARI: Hell, why stop now with the awful wide receiver matchups? It seems this is the week to expect something far lower than standard WR2 production from the names you would normally slot into that spot. From a yardage perspective, Johnson has been mediocre all season with just 234 receiving yards over five games. But he’s retained his fantasy value by scoring often, with three touchdowns. But now his offense will oppose a front seven that already has 17 sacks, meaning Ryan Fitzpatrick will have little time to look deep down the field and throw against a secondary led by Patrick Peterson that’s only given up five passing touchdowns anyway.
The guy you should bench
Brian Hartline is everyone’s waiver wire darling, and I realize that it hurts to do what we know is right, and to deliver bad news to the people in our lives that we love. This deep love develops quickly when the player in question does so much for you in a short period of time as Hartline — who leads the league in receiving yards — has with his 312 yards over his last two games, 253 of which came during an absurd Week 4 performance. But everybody hurts sometimes, and this week, it’ll be Hartline.
So be gentle and tender, and place him on your bench for two reasons. The first one is named Cortland Finnegan, and the second one is named Janoris Jenkins.
Here are the final receiving yard totals for the top wideouts over the Rams’ first five games: 92, 41, 71,68, 111. The largest number there belongs to Calvin Johnson, which is quite forgivable since he’s pretty good and is nicknamed after some robot cyber being that transforms from 18-wheeler to killing machine. And while the 92 is still quite good and it belongs to Larry Fitzgerald, collectively the arithmetic of those five digits means that the tandem of Finnegan and Jenkins has only allowed one 100-yard receiving game thus far despite facing Johnson, Fitz, and Brandon Marshall (he’s the 71).
Those three were all in the top 10 in receiving yards last year, and despite his early surge and brilliance, they’re several tiers high than Hartline simply based on sheer talent. Need more? Even though they’ve faced those three elite wideouts and their combined 30 receiving touchdowns last year, the Rams have only allowed two scores through the air thus far.
The stat(s) that will make you happy
While it remains remarkable that Larry Fitzgerald is able to catch any footballs with the rotating mess of elementary school quarterbacks he’s dealt with since Kurt Warner’s retirement, his inconsistent production this year despite the Cardinals’ surprise start is at least mildly concerning. After averaging 88.2 yards per game last season, he’s now dipped to a low of four yards in one game this year (Week 2), along with a game when he played dink to Kevin Kolb’s dunk instead of being a deep threat, and he averaged only eight yards per catch (Week 4). Then there’s also been a 92-yard game, and a 114 yarder.
We should see the return of the Fitzgerald who enjoys long Sunday frolics in open green fields this week against the Bills. Despite investing seemingly every draft pick they’ve had over the last 18 years in their secondary, the Bills gave up a 113-yard game to Michael Crabtree last week, and prior to that Crabtree only had 198 yards over four games. Then there’s also the Bills’ vulnerability to chunk yardage with the 8.4 yards they’re allowing per pass attempt (29th), and the 21 receptions of 20 yards or more that they’ve allowed (27th).
The best case scenario for…Michael Vick
Vick’s innovative tactic of carrying a football everywhere and anywhere around the Eagles’ practice facilities (cafeteria, team meetings, shower, steam room, crapper) pays off immediately, with his fumble problems fixed. With that distraction taken care of, Vick can then focus on the more pressing matter at hand: lighting up an weak Lions defense against both the pass and run in the most appealing matchup of the week for a quarterback who isn’t named Matt Ryan.
Interceptions have been another problem for Vick, and one that’s contributed to his overall turnover debacle. But a Lions secondary that saw Eric Wright — their only ball-hawking threat — depart for Tampa this past offseason is one of only two teams that still doesn’t have an interception. They also only have nine sacks, a mediocre total through four games for a team with such an imposing front four on paper led by Ndamukong Suh. Those are the two leading factors that have contributed to the 101.3 passer rating the Lions’ defense has allowed.
Nearly every week we note that Vick epitomizes the boom/bust fantasy player, especially at his position. Prepare for the boom this week.
Bold-ish prediction for Vick: 283 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, 81 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown
The worst case scenario for…Tom Brady
Tom Tom with his perfect hair and supermodel wife gets a little ruffled by the Seahawks’ front seven that’s led by rookie Bruce Irvin and his 4.5 sacks, and overall he has a long, painful day against a pass rush that’s averaging over three sacks per game.
Brady will still have a fine day, mostly because he’s Tom Brady. But by the standards set by Tom Brady, this could very likely be a below average outing, especially with Aaron Hernandez maybe still not yet ready to return (he’ll likely be a game-time decision Sunday) and with Wes Welker hurting and listed as questionable (ankle). Brady is averaging 19.4 fantasy points per week using standard ESPN scoring, but against Arizona and Denver — the two other strong pass rushes New England has faced thus far — that number has dropped noticeably.
While getting sacked a combined eight times in those games, Brady had 12 points against the Broncos (223 passing yards, one TD), and 14 against the Cardinals (315 yards, one TD, one INT). The pick he threw against the Cards is his only interception of the season so far, and he finished that game with a passer rating of 79.6, making it the only game he’s had with a rating below 100.0.
Bold-ish prediction for Brady: 289 passing yards, one passing touchdown
The guy who’s currently sleeping
This week’s waiver wire Brian Hartline, Vick Ballard was a popular claim target earlier this week when it was announced that he’ll replace Donald Brown in the Colts’ backfield with the regular starter out two-to-three weeks due to a knee injury. Despite that popularity, Ballard is still available in 75 percent of ESPN leagues. So if you’re a Cedric Benson owner who missed out on Alex Green, go crazy.
In fact, if you’re in a situation like that and you’re lucky enough to be in one of the many leagues where Ballard is available, you need to pick him up as soon as you finish reading this paragraph, which is convenient because that’s also when this post ends (keep me employed please, thanks). At a bulky 5’10″ while weighing 219 pounds, Ballard has a pounding, downhill running style that’s ideally suited for his opponent tomorrow, as the Jets have already given up eight rushing touchdowns (second worst in the league), and a rather embarrassing 172.4 rushing yards per game. For some perspective on the unique level of suck the Jets have reached while attempting to defend the run, last year the Bucs had the worst run defense, and they allowed 156.1 yards per game.