Inviting matchups are plentiful this weekend. There’s just so many filled with fantasy fun times, and laughing at cousins and fathers and maybe even grandmothers who are opponents. Surely there’s an all-grandmothers league somewhere out there.
But there’s one guy who you’ve grown quite fond of recently that should remain firmly on benches if possible. He’s the guy in the picture.
More on him in a minute. But first, some happy times.
The top three most favorable matchups
1. Arian Foster vs. BUF: It’s impossible to not put Foster in this pot, but there’s not much more to add here beyond our statistical rant yesterday that concluded in the proclamation that the Bills will make Foster look like the best running back in the history of time.
2. Alfred Morris vs. CAR: We won’t state even more obvious facts by listing Michael Vick here, but yeah, he’s facing the Saints, and this week is probably the last chance you’ll have to start him. But Morris should thrive against the 20th-ranked Panthers front seven against the run that’s playing without Jon Beason for the rest of the season. Two weeks ago against the Giants and their now 19th-ranked defense against the run, Morris rumbled for 120 yards, averaging five yards per carry and ripping off a 30 yarder.
3. Calvin Johnson @ JAC: Perhaps some more obvious speak here, but my filter is being overwhelmed by excitement for the stunningly ridiculous matchups some of the prime fantasy studs have at their positions. That starts with Foster, and it very much includes Johnson, and even a wounded Megatron should be able to torch a secondary that will most likely be playing without Rashean Mathis and Derek Cox. Oh, and don’t worry about Johnson’s knee. He’ll be fine, and he’ll play.
The top three unfavorable matchups
1. Julio Jones vs. DAL: This is pretty much the worst matchup ever for both Jones and Roddy White, but teams have often played a pick your poison game between the Falcons’ top two wideouts. More often, it’s been Jones who slumps, as there’s been two games in the first half of the season when he had less than 40 receiving yards, including only 15 yards back in Week 4, when he spent part of the game facing off against Champ Bailey. Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr haven’t been kind to opposing fast guys, holding Victor Cruz to just two catches for 23 yards last week.
2. C.J. Spiller/Fred Jackson @ HOU: This may apply more to Spiller, who’s the greater home run threat and he therefore provides greater temptation. Either way, just don’t. Stay away, because despite the loss of Brian Cushing this is still a highly mobile sideline-to-sideline Houston front seven that can match Spiller’s speed, as the Texans held Ray Rice to a moderate 4.5 yards per touch on 14 touches last week (nine carries, five receptions).
3. A.J. Green @ CIN: If Ike Taylor can hold Green to just one reception and most importantly limit his targets to just six two weeks ago (through the Bengals’ first six games he had averaged 11.1), then his chances against Bailey — the eternal defender — seem dismal. Bailey has held Marques Colston, Brandon Lloyd, and Andre Johnson to a combined 169 receiving yards.
The guy you should bench
I know the last three weeks have been exciting, Chris Johnson owners. You’ve laughed, skipped, hugged strangers, and you even bought a pet platypus, because that seemed logical at the time. Actually, anything seemed possible, which is why you also pledged your allegiance to Rick Santorum only a few days before the election, even though he was defeated in the primaries months ago. Any man who’s watched Rambo 46 times is a man who’s American presidential material.
Joyous times indeed. That’s the kind of delirious madness which takes place when a running back who was widely a first-round pick quite infamously had just 45 yards over his first three games — a stretch that quite incredibly included just four yards on 11 carries in Week 1 — and then from Week 6 onwards Johnson’s had 385 yards. That split between two three-game stretches just simply doesn’t compute. But if you’d like to continue living in your dreamland this weekend, bench Johnson, and forget he exists for one week.
That’s because his opponent is the Chicago Bears, they of the 77.9 rushing yards allowed per game, the only team with less than 80. There’s little hope for Johnson to salvage an otherwise putrid effort with a touchdown too, because da Bears have only given up one of those on the ground.
For some perspective on how good and how hurtful the Bears have been against the run, last year — and to a somewhat lesser extent, this year too — even attempting to run against the 49ers was a pretty unintelligent thought. Well, they allowed 77.2 yards per game, and only three touchdowns on the season.
Still being stubborn? Please consult the opponents that Johnson torched or sort of torched during his three-game run of being the old Johnson. The real explosion (195 yards and two touchdowns) came against the aforementioned woeful Bills front seven, and they seek to be awful in as many defensive rushing metrics as possible. Then there was the Steelers who were playing without Troy Polamalu and his hard-hitting presence while stepping up to defend against the run, and the 27th-ranked Colts run defense (137.4 yards per game).
The promise and acceleration Johnson showed was real, and it was spectacular. But he was playing against training-wheel level run defenses.
The stat(s) that will make you happy
As depressing as the Bills’ matchup against Houston is from an offensive perspective and a defensive perspective and pretty much every perspective, there’s still a sliver of faint, flickering light for Buffalo’s top receiver. Stevie Johnson will be matched up against Daniel Manning and/or Johnathan Joseph, which is something far less than inviting.
However, if we go back to two of the Texans’ recent games (Week 5 against the Jets and Week 6 against the Packers), they’ve shown a touch of vulnerability to chunk yardage through the air. That could be ideal for a receiver who’s starting to show a bit of life with 153 receiving yards and a touchdown over his last two games after topping 60 yards only once over the first five weeks.
Between Jordy Nelson and Jeremy Kerley in those two games, the Texans gave up two receptions of 35 yards or more, allowing them to average 15.4 yards per catch.
The best case scenario for…Demaryius Thomas
Speaking of chunk yardage through long forward passes, how ’bout dem Bengals? The definition of chunk yardage can vary, but I think we can all agree passes of 20 yards or more certainly fall under that label. Despite employing Leon Hall, and Nate Clements, the Bengals have given up 28 such passes overall, and during their last game against the Steelers they gave up four, two of which went for over 30 yards. Taking that even further, one of those 30 yarders landed in Heath Miller’s hands, and he’s averaging just 9.6 yards per reception.
So that will continue, because the law of averages and more importantly the law of continued mediocre-ness dictates such an action, and Thomas easily builds off of his 137-yard outing last week.
Bold-ish prediction for Thomas: eight receptions, 141 yards, one touchdown
The worst case scenario for…Aaron Rodgers
Despite reportedly being in “much better shape” than he was at this time last week, Jordy Nelson still doesn’t play, meaning Rodgers will once again be without his top two options at wide receiver. Even though Green Bay won a game that was much closer than it should have been, against the Jaguars last week the absence of Nelson and Greg Jennings resulted in just 183 passing yards, and only 15 fantasy points; very average production from the quarterback position. We can look to, say, Sam Bradford for some haunting perspective, as even though he participated in an embarrassing meat grinding overseas against the Patriots, the Rams quarterback still registered 11 fantasy points
Without Nelson and Jennings, the confidence in Rodgers sinks even lower this week with the Packers opposing the Cardinals and Patrick Peterson, and Arizona’s secondary that’s one of only four in the league giving up less than 200 yards through the air per game.
Bold-ish prediction for Rodgers: 210 passing yards, one touchdown, 18 rushing yards
The guy who’s currently sleeping
It remains remarkable how underrated Carson Palmer is, making him still qualified for some form of sleeper status, especially during a week when Tom Brady owners are scrambling for a high-value bye replacement between sobs. Yeah, he’ll make the odd asshat decision, but you know, you try being sound mentally all the time once you’re 62 years old. It’s tough, man.
But despite that asshatery and the general suck of his offensive line, Palmer still isn’t exactly killing you with interceptions, especially when we consider how much he’s had to force plays with Darren McFadden struggling immensely, and his top receivers rarely healthy. He’s thrown five picks through eight games, and he still hasn’t throw two in one game yet.
So he’s far safer than he gets credit for, and since the Raiders are often clawing from behind he’s asked to throw often, which has led to his passing yardage being above 290 in half of his games. But here’s the most important number: 105. That’s the amount of fantasy points Palmer has, a solid total for a QB2 at an average of 13.1 weekly.
You hate Palmer, because as the Raiders quarterback he has so very little sex appeal. But look, here are some more fun numbers. Using ESPN standard scoring, Palmer has only one point less than the struggling Michael Vick whom you’re starting with glee this week, and he’s four points behind Cam Newton. He’s also ten points ahead of Tony Romo, and 14 ahead of Jay Cutler. Yeah, the Jay Cutler who’s throwing to Brandon Marshall.
Yet somehow Palmer is still astoundingly available in 35 percent of ESPN leagues, and last week despite byes he was only started in 18 percent of leagues. Given the list of numbers in his favor and a very inviting matchup against a now Aqib Talib-less Tampa Bay secondary, Palmer is easily the best Brady replacement.