Yes, we’re all now aware that Calvin Johnson is playing today, and many pairs of fine pants were just ruined when that wonderful news hit the web’s interconnecting series of tubes. That’s dandy, and clearly the Lions’ offense is much better with Calvin Johnson than without Calvin Johnson.
But please recall two days ago when we listed all the great reasons why even with a healthy yet quite hobbled Johnson (he was limited in practice all week), the Browns are a great defensive streaming play this week. Consequently, Matthew Stafford could be the opposite of great.
Without repeating too much of what I noted Friday, let’s observe the reasons to fear Stafford:
- Johnson could be little more than a decoy, and a human distraction. The Lions have denied this will happen, saying that if Johnson is healthy he’ll be used and featured prominently, and we all know they have no motivation whatsoever to lie in this situation.
- Let’s assume Johnson isn’t operating at full health, and let’s call him, say, 80 percent. That percentage of Calvin Johnson is still better than almost every other NFL receiver. However, it may knock him down to being more on the level of A.J. Green and Mike Wallace, two fast and athletic deep options that Joe Haden has held to a combined eight catches for 66 yards.
- Beyond Johnson, the most threatening Lions receivers with Nate Burleson out are the running backs, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. Their speed and elusiveness in space has led to a pretty stupid 441 receiving yards (an average of 88.2 per game) for Detroit’s top two running backs. But despite facing the Ravens and Bills — two other teams with running backs who catch a lot of balls — the Browns are giving up only an average of 31.8 receiving yards per game to the position.
- Lastly, Stafford was sacked five times a week ago by a Packers front seven that had a modest seven QB takedowns through four games. The Browns enter this week with 18 sacks (3.6 per game), only three behind the league leading Chiefs.
It’s difficult to outright bench Stafford, because doing that assumes you have a much better option stashed. Since you drafted Stafford on average at the end of the fourth round, that’s unlikely, because after investing so highly in the position there’s little motivation to spend high again on a QB2.
But it’s also difficult to expect much from him this week after 29 fantasy points from Stafford over his last two games in equally unfavorable matchups.
More stray lineup thoughts and words of warning
Today in lowered expectations: DeSean Jackson
Here’s the deal with DeSean Jackson: he’s fast, and he’s a great fit in Chip Kelly’s offense. Those two facts have become abundantly obvious over the first five weeks of this season. But here’s another fun fact: of his 525 total receiving yards thus far (a booming pace of 105.0 per game), 297 of them have come against secondaries currently ranked 27th and 28th.
That would be the Chargers and Redskins, and the intention here isn’t to take anything away from Jackson, because he caught those deep, sailing balls (11 for 20 yards or more), and he ran for those yards after the catch. Instead, it’s a simple and clear observation about the quality of the Eagles’ opponents thus far, which also includes Jackson’s 132 yards against the 20th-ranked Giants last week. Now, he gets to have a residency on Darrelle Revis’ lonely island today, and the only other time he faced corners even remotely close to that caliber this year Jackson has held to only three catches on seven targets for 62 yards by the Chiefs’ combination of Sean Smith and Brandon Flowers.
Lower your expectations, especially with Nick Foles making his first start this year.
Be really worried about any Titans player who catches footballs
There are obvious reasons for this, and their names are Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, and overall a Seahawks’ passing defense that’s ranked third while giving up only 194.6 yards per game. That dominance surprises absolutely no one, but when it’s combined with the presence of Ryan Fitzpatrick, a special kind of hell awaits.
I know you’re really jacked about that Nate Washington waiver claim you made last week after his 236 receiving yards and two touchdowns over two games, which led to a cool 35.6 fantasy points and weekly WR3 or high-end flex consideration. And across from him Kendall Wright is starting to steadily produce as well, with two +70 yard games over the past three weeks. But today, just don’t. Stay away, and maybe running would be a good choice too.
In his first start replacing the injured Jake Locker, Fitzpatrick completed only 51.2 percent of his throws, and worse, he whiffed eight times when trying to connect on a pass that traveled more than 15 yards in the air.
Pierre Garcon could have some long, pleasant jogs today
Brandon Carr has still been a physically imposing presence for the Cowboys at cornerback, but sophomore Morris Claiborne — the faster of the two — has struggled while being burned deep repeatedly. His likely (hopefully?) brief regression has largely contributed to the downfall of Dallas’ secondary, one that’s now ranked 31st as we begin the sixth Sunday of this season while giving up a whooping 326.4 yards per game through the air. Quick aside: the Cowboys-Redskins game gives us the gruesome matchup of the 27th- and 31st-ranked secondaries. PLAY ALL THE RECEIVERS.
That very much includes Pierre Garcon. Despite being hobbled last year with his foot injury, Garcon averaged 18.6 yards per catch over two games against the Cowboys, and one of his seven total receptions went for 59 yards.
Sleeper me this: Garrett Graham
With Owen Daniels out until at least Week 14 and on the injured reserve, Garrett Graham becomes your new sleeper tight end for this week, and likely most weeks. Hell, there’s a good chance you can even make a last minute add if you’re a Tony Gonzalez owner desperate to cover his bye, as Graham is still available in nearly 70 percent of ESPN leagues.
Graham and the Texans offense will face a Rams defense today that’s still missing Cortland Finnegan, and is giving up an overage of 53.8 yards per game to tight ends. That’s a cool five fantasy points out of your tight end from the yardage alone, and then you remember that Graham has scored a touchdown in three of his four games (he was severely limited and not targeted in Week 3 due to a groin injury).
Will there be too much garbage time in the Jaguars-Broncos game?
I know what you’re thinking, and it’s instinctive. It goes something like this: wooooaaah man this one’s gonna be a huge time punch up so all my players in this game will score every drive and it’ll great fun.
Yeah, because blowouts always work that way. On the Jaguars side of the ball, what we’re reminded of every week is that since they’re awful and trail so often and by so much, Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon continue to have great value. In fact, fantasy-wise those two may actually be better because their team sucks so thoroughly, as the running game is completely abandoned by halftime. For Shorts, the result has been at least 60 receiving yards in four games and an overall average of 82.2, even though his offense has scored all of 51 points through five games. He’s averaging 12.4 targets per game, so sheer volume is where Shorts’ numbers are coming from. Meanwhile, in his season debut last week Blackmon turned nine targets into five catches, 136 yards, and a touchdown during a two-touchdown loss.
We should be much more concerned about how much the garbage time in this game will effect the Broncos, and their artillery of fantasy options. Obviously the matchup is incredibly juicy for Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Demaryius Thomas, and, well, absolutely everyone in a Broncos uniform. But there’s a good chance that we get a Brock Osweiler sighting for a full quarter, along with much of the Broncos’ second-team offense. Can Manning et al do enough for you in three quarters? Likely and probably, but that’s a concern.
As the Mike Klis of the Denver Post noted while looking back on some (relatively) recent history, teams that are favored by around 20 points have often underwhelmed, which includes the opponents of the winless 2008 Detroit Lions. The Vikings won the NFC North that year, yet over two games they beat Detroit by only a combined six points. Also, two 12-4 teams that year (Panthers and Colts), beat the Lions by a wider yet still close margin of 31-22 and 31-21.
So that gives us glorious hope that this game will remain close, along with the fact that only six favorites of 20 points or more have covered since 1992. There’s some gambler’s fallacy at play here (this has been happening forever under much different circumstances, so this will continue to happen), but that history illustrates a simple message: blowing out a professional football team by nearly four touchdowns isn’t easy, hastag analysis.
Then there’s the other history Klis notes: today’s Jags-Broncos game is the sixth time a 5-0 team has faced an 0-5 team. Each time, every unbeaten team has knocked the snot out of their opponent while covering with little difficulty.
Urgent really, really last minute update: getcha Larry Fitzgerald replacements ready
Not looking good. RT @adamlevitan Chris Mortensen chimes in on Larry Fitzgerald (hamstring). “Very iffy. They’re not optimistic.”
— Evan Silva (@evansilva) October 13, 2013
Specially, get your Andre Roberts pickup ready. He’s still unowned in 98 percent of Yahoo leagues and 83 percent of ESPN leagues, and with Fitzgerand likely out he’ll get the start and be targeted much more opposite Michael Floyd. The matchup against San Francisco is still quite horrible, but due to target volume alone Roberts is a decent play and emergency, last-minute add for those in deeper leagues (14 teams or more). And yeah, clearly Floyd’s production potential goes up, and tight end Rob Housler is now a deep sleeper.