You’ll quickly notice a theme in this week’s Sunday preview. No, not depression over the demise of Jelena. I’ve tried to suppress that, and carry on. Life, it’s not easy.
Something else will become obvious quickly. The common theme is a Patriot, a charging Buffalo, and a fantasy. That’s not a description of your dream last night in which you saved the scantily-clad damsel on the charging Buffalo ridden by a crazed Patriot.
Actually, what follows may be disappointing by comparison.
The top three most favorable matchups
1. Stevan Ridley vs. BUF: Yawns. So many yawns. Here’s this week’s tale of a run defense that’s still just the worst, and a running back who’s set to spit hot fire against said defense. Two weeks ago against a much better Rams front seven that’s given up 54 fewer yards per game than the Bills, Ridley ran for 127 yards, 41 of which came on one play. He did that at a pace of 8.5 yards per carry too, while Buffalo is giving up 5.7 YPC. Grip and rip, Stevan.
2. A.J. Green vs. NYG: It just keeps getting easier. A.J. Green has eight receptions for 20 yards or more, and some easy arithmetic puts him on a pace of one per game by that deep ball metric. Well, Prince Amukamara/Corey Webster will be rather inviting, as they’ll be the primary defenders tasked with slowing Green as he runs against a secondary giving up four +20 yard passes per game.
3. Wes Welker vs. BUF: I’m aware of the persistent heartache of the Bills fan. Sincerest apologies for thumbing the lemmings who play defense for your professional football team, but for fantasy purposes I’d be negligent if I didn’t repeat a fantastic Welker stat here. Over the Patriots’ last three games against the Bills, the slot dynamo has 397 receiving yards on 31 receptions. Yep, 31. Again, 31. Over three games, 31 receptions against the same team. 31.
The top three unfavorable matchups
1. Brandon Marshall vs. HOU: You’re about to notice a another trend here: the Bears-Texans Sunday nighter will be the suckiest sucky game for wide receivers. Wade Phillips has already said that he intends to double team Marshall all the time every time, but even in single coverage Johnathan Joseph isn’t exactly a nice fellow. Over the last two weeks during games against the Ravens and Bills, top receivers have finished with 65 and 41 yards.
2. Andre Johnson @ CHI: If only blissful nature would have cooperated to bring Charles Tillman’s bundle of joy to this Earth one day earlier. Instead Tillman’s baby is due Monday, meaning a shutdown corner who forced four fumbles last week and returned two interceptions for touchdowns will oppose a wide receiver who hasn’t scored since Week 3.
3. Jamaal Charles @ PIT: I discussed Charles at length Thursday in ye ol’ Tweetbag o’ Questions, noting how painful it is to bench the Chiefs running back because you likely spent a second-round pick on him. But if you have another even remotely appealing option, bench you must. Firstly, you have no idea how many carries Charles will receive, because you also have no idea how many brain cells remain in Brain Daboll’s melon. Combine that with the Steelers’ run defense being among the eight in the league allowing less than 90 rushing yards weekly, and some losses are in urgent need of cutting.
The guy you should bench
Just say no to Jeremy Maclin. Stay away, and start him as only a low-tier flex option if desperation has brought you that far.
The Eagles’ offensive line has been absolutely decimated by injuries, which has led to the repeated pounding of Michael Vick and eight sacks this past Monday night. Yet still for some reason there are mouth breathers in Philadelphia who want Vick yanked and replaced by Nick Foles. Hell, the only reason Vick is able to stay upright for even half the game is because of his ability to escape that man-eating rush every now and then by using his legs, and have we ever thought that maybe those offensive line injuries are forcing a quarterback who’s already a poor decision maker into making even worse decisions when he’s running to save his soul so often? Any discussion of inserting Foles remains the dumbest conversation of this NFL season, but I digress.
The connection between Maclin and Vick’s beheading is a simple one. If Vick can get sacked eight times by a Saints defense that’s still brought the quarterback down just a modest 20 times despite that one-week explosion, there’s a dude named DeMarcus Ware who will make life especially unpleasant tomorrow. The Eagles face the division-rival Cowboys, and individually Ware is nearly halfway to the sack total of the entire Saints defense (he has nine). The Eagles have also shown a vulnerability to overload pressures, something the Cowboys specialize in under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
So Vick will likely have little time to look deep against a great coverage secondary led by Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne. That will lead to an especially painful day for both Maclin and DeSean Jackson, as their quarterback has already logged four games with less than six yards per pass attempt.
The numbers that will make you happy
Did you spend your waiver priority on Marcel Reece, and thanks to Darren McFadden and his bones that are constructed with Lego you have to start him? Fear not, friend, because there’s some encouragement to be found in the Ravens’ most recent attempted defense of a pass-catching running back, and Reece definitely is one.
Last week Trent Richardson caught six balls for 31 yards against the Ravens, and over his previous three games he only had five receptions for 47 yards.
The best case scenario for…Ryan Fitzpatrick
The garbage delivers again, and in another lopsided laughter in favor of the Patriots, the Bills quarterback is given something he’s grown quite used to: a fourth quarter of meaningless football to play long-distance catch. The Patriots have won two of the last three Bills-Pats games, and the combined scored in those wins (101-49…yep) reflects the vast canyon between these two teams.
While another such beating will make Devang Desai compare Chan Gailey to other table condiments (sea salts?), you care very little about the plight of the Bills for fantasy purposes. All week I’ve been tossing names out there for the desperate Aaron Rodgers or Robert Griffin III owner who’s coping with the worst bye ever between head dunks in the toilet. But that’s been focused mostly on the waiver wire, where Ryan Tannehill, Russell Wilson, and maybe even Jake Locker will be fun. But if Fitzpatrick is on your bench, use him with confidence.
You’ll look at Fitz’s line during New England’s most recent Buffalo beating in Week 4 (52-28), and the four interceptions will jump out, because interceptions do that. But despite those four picks (oh and hey, if we exclude that disastrous day, Fitzpatrick has only thrown five picks in his seven other games…careless, he is not) he still finished with 27 fantasy points while ripping up a weak Patriots secondary. He threw for 350 passing yards and four touchdowns, while also adding 14 rushing yards.
Bold-ish prediction for Fitzpatrick: 298 passing yards, 1 INT, 2 TDs
The worst case scenario for…Ryan Mathews
It’s difficult to get a good read on the Bucs’ run defense, because while a front seven led by middle linebacker Mason Foster has overall been solid and is the best in the league coming into this week while allowing just 77.2 rushing yards per game (the only defense in the league that’s under 80), they’ve still been thoroughly thrashed by several elite backs. That includes Adrian Peterson (123 yards and a touchdown), and Alfred Morris (113 yards and a touchdown).
Elite’s friendship with Ryan Mathews ended quite some time ago, and he’s now approaching sagging also-ran territory as a running back who has a sporadic burst whenever he manages to reach the corner. There’s a dedicated army of Mathews supporters that still remains an unbreakable band of brothers, even though he’s scored a very modest and mediocre seven touchdowns over his last 22 games. Expect limited returns this week against a defense that closes off the edge well and often.
Bold-ish prediction for Mathews: 64 rushing yards, 10 receiving yards
The guys who are currently sleeping
We’ve been focusing a lot on this Delicious Pats-Bills matchup, because there’s just so much fun to be had. And look, it’s brought us two more gifts: Donald Jones and Shane Vereen.
Both are flex plays, as is the nature of the sleeper. Jones has some boom value due to both the feeble Patriots secondary even with the addition of Aqib Talib, and Stevie Johnson’s nagging thigh injury that’s led to his questionable tag. He’ll play, but he could be limited, giving Jones the opportunity to get a few more targets than usual and maybe pop one for a long reception. He did that twice in Week 4, finishing with 90 receiving yards on just two catches, which included a 64-yard grab.
As for Vereen, you’re aware of the Bills’ rush defense that can’t stop a group of literal muscle hamsters, and you’re also aware of Bill Belichick’s running back wizardry. Back in September against the Bills we learned Brandon Bolden’s name, as an undrafted rookie rushed for 137 yards on just 16 carries (8.6 YPC). How many rushing yards did Bolden have prior to that game? 15. How many did he have over his next two games before getting hurt and then suspended? 82. Yep, Vereen is a great flex play given the Bills’ hatred for stopping running backs, especially for those dealing with Trent Richardson’s bye.