Last week, Matt Ryan was our polite bad ass, cursing and flailing while kindly directing you to get the hell out of his house, but please exit in an orderly fashion to your left. This week, Marques Colston is the silent, unsexy murderer of fantasy foes.
For whatever reason, there’s always been a lack of sex appeal around Colston. We mean that from a fantasy ownership perspective, of course, because Colston is a handsome man, although he has nothing on Christian Ponder (bro knuckle touches all around for keeping it real off the field, Christian). All Colston does is catch a lot of balls in an elite passing offense, but he does it quietly, without any salsa dancing or jet ski pushups. Ho hum.
This week, though, Colston will have all the sex appeal of Kate Refaeli. Dare to dream.
The top three most favorable matchups
1. Marques Colston vs. TB: A Saints bye week may have made your memory fade a bit, expect if you’re a Colston owner. After having only 160 receiving yards over his first three games, Colston then strung together back-to-back booms, with 284 yards and four touchdowns since Week 4. So now we’ll have the league’s hottest hand at the wide receiver position pleasantly jogging and catching footballs against the Bucs’ 31st-ranked secondary. Colston has also been targeted extremely often, with 18 receptions during his two-game hot stretch, a pattern that’s set to increase if Jimmy Graham is either out or limited as expected.
2. Reggie Wayne vs. CLE: The temptation here is to knock Wayne down a notch or several due to the presence of Joe Haden. But a week ago A.J. Green showed that Haden can be beaten, and beaten often, and then beaten again and beaten some more. Green caught seven balls against Haden for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Sure, Haden is a supremely talented cornerback, and he has two interceptions this year despite playing in only two games due to a suspension. But the Cleveland defense is susceptible to the long ball with or without him, having already given up five receptions of 40 yards or more. So no, I don’t think Wayne — with his league leading per game receiving average of 118.6 yards — will struggle much against Haden.
3. Darren McFadden vs. JAC: I understand why you’ve lost faith in McFadden, he of the undeserved really cool moniker (a running DMC he is not). Although he scored last week against Atlanta, he still averaged only 2.6 yards per carry after running for just 70 yards overall. He did that while receiving 27 carries too — easily a season high, after his previous high was 18 — so plodding won the day. This week, though, change is coming. Feel it, sense it, know it. There’s just no conceivable way that McFadden won’t tear apart a Jaguars front seven that’s allowing 163 yards per game, and has given up seven rushing touchdowns over five games, amiright?
The top three unfavorable matchups
1. Jordy Nelson @ GB: Janoris Jenkins and Cortland Finnegan have quickly developed into the league’s most imposing CB tandem now that the Cromartie-Revis duo has been broken up. Both play a highly physical style, especially Jenkins, who just lays out dudes for fun. So yeah, good luck Jordy, because Jenkins and Finnegan didn’t allow Brian Hartline to be targeted even once last week.
2. Brandon Lloyd vs. NYJ: While overall we should see a Patriots romp Sunday in Foxboro, we could also see some trying times for Lloyd. He’ll be opposed by Antonio Cromartie for most of the afternoon, the Jets cornerback who’s only a week removed from holding Andre Johnson to just 15 yards on one reception. Cromartie also limited Reggie Wayne to a productive but more respectable 87 yards, a week after he posted 212 yards on the Packers.
3. Percy Harvin vs. ARI: As I wrote yesterday, the Arizona secondary has been both unforgiving, and sometimes still rewarding, with Stevie Johnson finishing with 82 yards last week, and Brian Hartline exploding for 253. But burners Brandon Lloyd and DeSean Jackson only had a combined 103 yards against Arizona. However, although this matchup is less than ideal overall with Patrick Peterson lurking, Harvin should be able to stay away from him for the majority of the game since he spends most of his time in the slot. Still expect solid production from a rangy receiver who thrives while running crossing routes in open space since he can indeed avoid Peterson in that capacity. But Harvin’s numbers likely won’t be in line with the 19 catches for 241 yards he’s posted over the last two weeks.
The guy you should bench
I try to stay away from injury concerns in this spot, but this week I’ll make an exception and once again stress the need to bench Jimmy Graham. At best, it sounds like with his ankle injury Graham is headed for the same fate that Aaron Hernandez had last week when he was questionable, and then a game-time decision went in his favor.
A touchdown reception made Hernandez’s stat line look a lot better than it really was, because although he was targeted often enough to finish with six receptions, all of his catches epitomized the role of the simple tight end who’s tasked with finding a hole in a zone with a short route, catching a ball, and sitting down. Hernandez wasn’t used as a tight end who has elite breakaway speed after the catch for a player at his position, and therefore he only averaged five yards per catch. Last year, he averaged 11.5 yards per catch.
It appears that Graham is unlikely to play, although we probably won’t hear anything official until the inactives are announced for Sunday’s early games (quick digression: there are NINE early games Sunday, and only two late afternoon games, so thanks for that nice spacing so we can watch all of the football, NFL). Right now, though, you should be ruling Graham out of your lineup.
UPDATE: Welp, now you definitely need to bench Graham, because the Saints have ruled him out.
The stat(s) that will make you happy
Last week some guy who knows how to hit holes and not run into other humans on the football field inherited Shonn Greene’s body, and the Colts allowed this extra terrestrial being to run for 161 yards and three touchdowns. You’re aware of this, but if you’re even considering being cautious with Trent Richardson as he runs against the Colts tomorrow after he was limited in practice all week due to some banged-up ribs, you also need to remember that the Colts creaky storm door of a run defense goes far beyond just last week.
Largely thanks to the absence of middle linebacker Pat Angerer (who will return this week, by only in a limited capacity, and he won’t start), the Colts also allowed Maurice Jones-Drew to rush for 177 yards and a touchdown, and the combination of Matt Forte and Michael Bush back in Week 1 finished with 122 yards and three touchdowns. Their only respectable outings against the run came two weeks ago against the Packers when Cedric Benson suffered a foot injury that’s serious enough to keep him out for two months, and against Adrian Peterson in only his second game back after ACL surgery.
The best case scenario for…Chris Johnson
For those who believe in the concept of momentum in sports that’s created by the ever-churning narrative machines, Johnson has plenty of it after sort of looking like the Johnson from far away days gone by last week against the Steelers (a Steelers defense playing without James Harrison and Troy Polamalu…but shhhh). He had 114 all-purpose yards on five yards per touch (19 carries, four receptions), so momentum is oozing from his pores.
That’s swell, because now Johnson will continue to pull his owners from their self-made quicksand graves, gashing a Bills defense that’s given up 543 rushing yards to running backs over the past three weeks.
Bold-ish prediction for Johnson: 121 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, 26 receiving yards
The worst case scenario for…Matthew Stafford
Being stationary against pass rushers who are fast and excel at inducing pain hasn’t been a good strategy for Matthew Stafford this year, a trait that’s been magnified by the inconsistencies of his offensive line. In Week 5 against Jared Allen and the Vikings’ defensive front he was sacked five times, which resulted in season lows in passer rating (77.2), and yards per attempt (6.3).
So this weekend both of those trends (stationary Stafford and stationary O-line) will continue against Julius Peppers and the Bears’ front seven, the same unit that pressured Stafford early and often the last time the Lions traveled to Soldier Field to force drastic 2011 lows in each of the aforementioned metrics. In that Week 10 game Stafford had a passer rating of 46.3 while averaging 5.2 yards per attempt, both steep departures from his overall totals for the season in those categories (97.2, and 7.6)
Bold-ish prediction for Stafford: 302 passing yards, one interception
The guy who’s currently sleeping
I’m a Felix Jones believer with DeMarco Murray out, especially with his matchup against the Carolina run defense. The Cowboys share that belief, mostly because for the next few weeks they have no choice. But there’s one simple, fundamental ability that Jones doesn’t have: he can’t carry a heavy workload.
Due to his sporadic usage over five seasons, Jones only has two games with +20 carries, while Murray already has six over just 18 game appearances. That means while Jones could and should thrive against a Panthers defense that functioned as Andre Brown’s speed bag in just his first career start, he won’t wear any sort of cowbell and get the bulk of the workload. It takes only a few more connected dots to see where this is going: Phillip Tanner has value as a deep, desperate flex option.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said earlier this week that Jones and second-year RB Phillip Tanner will receive nearly an even split of the workload. Anticipate a 60-40 share in favor of Jones, with Tanner getting something in the neighborhood of 10 carries, which should be plenty to accumulate yardage against a Carolina defense allowing 127.4 rushing yards per game. He could emerge as a sneaky desperation play in your flex spot, especially with his 0.7 ownership right now in ESPN leagues, two percent in Yahoo leagues.