Owning Michael Turner is now sort of like holding on to that faithful, rusting car that’s been with you for over a decade. Great times were had in both the front and back seat, but now routine oil changes turn into repeated reconstructions, and traveling consists of plodding, chugging, and pushing.
But Turner can’t be packaged and sold for parts. That’s wrong, and it’s cannibalism. No, you’re stuck with him now, but don’t compound his problem (sucking) with one of your own (old man stubbornness). Move on this week if it’s at all possible.
More on that in a minute. But first, the usual bit of cheery news leads off our weekly Sunday preview.
The top three most favorable matchups
1. Andy Dalton vs. OAK: I won’t list Colin Kaepernick here, because I’ve been too busy writing him love letters all week. But if we go beyond the obvious with Kaepernick’s highly-appealing matchup against the Saints and also Matt Ryan’s against an equally woeful Buccaneers secondary, Dalton is the next man up. Dalton’s recently returned to being the Dalton we saw earlier this year, with seven touchdown passes and only one interception over his last three games since Cincinnati’s Week 8 bye. Meanwhile, the Raiders are still getting burned consistently by the pass, allowing Drew Brees to complete 74.1 percent of his attempts last week.
2. C.J. Spiller @ IND: The skies have parted, water has turned red, and heaven has descended to hell. Yes, you may have missed the Apocalypse earlier this week when Chan Gailey finally realized that giving the best player on his team more touches and, well, the most touches is a good idea. Fred Jackson is healthy now, and he’ll still get his slice of the backup pie. But it’ll be more like the size of the slices given to the kid’s table this week at Thanksgiving dinners. Small, yet still delicious. With Jackson now likely in a role that more closely resembles that of a true backup, Spiller will quickly ascend to become one of the best fantasy running backs, starting this week against the Colts and their 22nd-ranked run defense.
3. Roddy White @TB: The reasons for White’s superstud status are numerous before we even consider his matchup. Partly due to Julio Jones’ ankle injury, he’s been getting targeted a lot lately, even for a receiver who’s already targeted a lot after White led the league last year with 181 targets. White was short of his 2011 target pace over the first six games this year, though, averaging 8.3 per game, which is sluggish by his standards (he had 11.3 per game last year). But over Atlanta’s last four games when he’s accumulated 393 receiving yards, White’s been targeted 40 times. That kind of high volume will end in some seriously fun times tomorrow against the league’s worst passing defense that’s still one of just three units allowing more than 300 passing yards per game.
The top three unfavorable matchups
1. Michael Turner @TB: This is another Falcons player whose circumstances matter more than the matchup, and yeah, the matchup sucks a lot too. At this point, unless you’re fully confident that Turner will score a touchdown (he has five over 11 games), just stay the hell away. God bless Mike Smith for his stubborn, Chan Gailey-esque patience, but Turner’s fade has been obvious for quite some time. He’s averaging only 3.7 yards per carry, which is in Bilal Powell territory. That’s why Jacquizz Rodgers and Jason Snelling are getting more work, with Turner’s 15 carries last week down significantly from his 24 only a few weeks ago in Week 8. And about that matchup: the Bucs still have the best rush defense in the league, allowing only 81.8 yards per game. Bench this man.
2. Trent Richardson vs. PIT: T-Rich has been somewhat matchup proof recently, posting 122 rushing yards and 19 fantasy points on the Chargers defense in Week 8, a run defense that’s allowing only 3.8 yards per carry. In total he has 414 yards from scrimmage over his last three games, making us (*points at self*) throw egg on our faces for saying that taking a running back with a top five pick isn’t wise in today’s NFL. Well actually, it still isn’t, and Richardson is very much the exception, but I digress. He’ll still produce this week, but he’s your weekly candidate for lowered expectations despite numbers that will still be sort of OK. He’s running against a Pittsburgh defense that’s done it’s bending against elite running backs recently, but the breaking has been minimal, with a very moderate 193 total yards allowed to Ray Rice and Jamaal Charles. That includes only 40 rushing yards given up to Rice.
3. Dwayne Bowe vs. DEN: Similar to Turner, you need to keep Bowe as far away from your lineup as possible. Hide him in a basement if you can, or possibly Dexter’s kill room. First there’s the matter of Brady Quinn, and his continued existence as an NFL quarterback, and a starting one no less that Bowe is relying upon to deliver him the ball with some sort of consistency. As awful as the Chiefs’ quarterback situation has been this year between Quinn and Matt Cassel, it reached an all-time soul destroying low last week in terms of its impact on Bowe. He had zero catches on two targets — both season lows — and now he takes that QB cinder block that’s tied to his foot into a matchup against Champ Bailey. Not good.
The guy(s) you should bench
Last week while reminding you that Nick Foles is a rookie quarterback and he’ll therefore make rookie mistakes because that’s what rookie quarterbacks do, I also said that you shouldn’t be afraid of him while considering roster decisions regarding DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. Now I’d like you to please deep fry my crow, and serve it with a side of gravy. It’s quite delicious when served like that.
Until further notice, I’d like to take back every word, and recommend that you bench both Jackson and Maclin if possible, or at best only start them as flex plays. Yes, this week the Panthers’ defense presents an easier matchup than, say, the Cowboys did during Foles’ regular-season debut two weeks ago. But the Redskins’ were a pretty damn cushy landing spot too in his first start, which is what prompted the glowing optimism from myself and others. Foles then repaid us by connecting with Maclin and Jackson for a combined two receptions and five yards, all of which went to Jackson.
It gets worse. That woe last week came against the 30th ranked secondary in the league, and a very average Redskins pass rush without Brian Orakpo (only 16 sacks prior to Week 11) brought Foles down four times. Carolina’s Charles Johnson has 8.5 sacks on his own, with five coming over the Panthers’ last four games.
Maybe this is the game when we see more upside than tumbling downside from Foles. But taking the risk and starting Jackson or Maclin is unwise.
The best case scenario for…Chad Henne
Cinderella’s shoe still fits, and the new Jaguars quarterback who’s truthfully a replacement-level talent but he’s replacing the other replacement-level talent is able to slice up a Titans pass defense that’s been generally awful. Two weeks ago Jay Cutler completed 73.1 percent of his passes against Tennessee for 21 fantasy points and a passer rating of 138.1, and overall this season he’s maintained a rating of only 80.1.
Average to mediocre quarterbacks seem to enjoy themselves when they oppose this Titans defense, making Henne the ideal option for the Ben Roethlisberger owner this week who missed out on Colin Kaepernick.
Bold-ish prediction for Henne: 319 passing yards, two passing touchdowns
The worst case scenario for…Ray Rice
A rush defense that held Doug Martin to only 68 yards on 3.6 YPC two weeks ago after he had rushed for an absurd 386 yards over his previous two games remains something less than inviting, and Rice continues his production that’s solid, but far below elite for a running back who was a top five pick.
Although he’s made up for it with his usual presence as a pass catcher, Rice’s rushing decline is troubling. Since a 102-yard game in Week 5 on six yards per carry, Rice has averaged only 55.6 yards per game on the ground. That’s down significantly from his 85.3 YPG last year.
The guy who’s currently sleeping
A desperation flex play defined, Jerome Simpson will see more looks with Percy Harvin out. The matchup here is, um, undesirable, but that Kaepernick guy has now provided at least flickering, reaching hope for mobile quarterbacks everywhere and their targets when they oppose the Bears. Unfortunately, Harvin owners in deep leagues might not have another option, and they’ll be forced to roll with Simpson. Godspeed.